COLOMBO: Sri Lanka granted port access on Satur­day for a controversial Chi­nese research vessel, the foreign ministry said, despite neighbouring India’s concerns that it could spy on New Delhi’s military installations.

The Yuan Wang 5 is described as a research and survey vessel by international shipping and analytics sites, but according to Indian media it is a dual-use spy ship.

New Delhi is suspicious of Beijing’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and influence in Sri Lanka, seeing both as being firmly within its sphere of influence.

The Yuan Wang 5 was originally due to call at Sri Lanka’s Chinese-run Ham­bantota port on Thursday, only for Colombo to ask Beijing to indefinitely defer the visit following India’s objections.

But Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said the vessel had been granted permission to dock at Hambantota on Tues­day and remain for six days.

It is required to keep its Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched on while in Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone, and is not allowed to carry out scientific research in Sri Lankan waters, the ministry added.

Sri Lanka’s harbour master, Nirmal P. Silva, said: “The diplomatic clearance was received by me today. We will work with the local agent appointed by the vessel to ensure logistics at the port.”

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2022

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