Wickremesinghe’s response to Jaishankar’s issue was indistinctive during their October 11 meeting in Colombo.
image source – india.com
India Concerns over Chinese Survey Vessel Presence
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe is considering India’s request to not allow Chinese Survey and Research Vessel Shi Yan 6 to take over a common service scientific exploration with the country’s public Submarine Research and Development Agency (NARA) in Sri Lanka’s Exclusive Economic Zone between late October and November this year, people familiar with the matter said.
Wickremesinghe’s Ambiguous Response Sparks Speculation
President Wickremesinghe’s response to the issue, raised by external affairs minister S Jaishankar during his meeting with the Sri Lankan head of state in Colombo on October 11, was indistinctive, the people added, asking not to be named.
Sri Lanka’s position on Big Power Conflict
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Sabry was quoted by Sri Lanka’s The Island newspaper on October 9 saying that his country had given authorization to the Chinese vessel for docking at Colombo deep seaport in November. The same report quoted him saying that Sri Lanka doesn’t want “to get involved” with “big power conflict going on” between “China, India and the US.”
Chinese Survey Vessel’s Strategic Location
The Chinese vessel was previously maintaining position 1,000 km east of the China- controlled Hambantota port in the Island nation, and is presently about 280 navigational long miles ( 500 km) east of Chennai in the Bay of Bengal. Carrying nearly 2,000 tonnes of diesel, the boat has enough stock to last for two more months. The boat entered the Indian Ocean Region on September 23.
Sri Lanka’s Delicate Diplomatic Dance with China and India
Sri Lankan President, Wickremsinghe, visited India in July, after this visit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was “ necessary ” the two countries worked “together, keeping in mind each other’s security interests”. The final decision on the boat, may be taken by Wickremesinghe during his visit to Beijing to attend the BRI peak on October 17- 18 at the assignation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Strategic Implications of Chinese Oceanic Exploration in the IOR
Over the past five years, Chinese vessels have been active in the Indian Ocean Region with the PLA Navy growing into a proper blue water navy.The total number of vessels including warships, ballistic missile trackers, survey and exploration vessels recorded in 2019 were 29, grew to 39 in 2020, also 45 in 2021 and 43 in 2022. This year, till September 15, 28 Chinese vessels have been recorded in the region.
Indeed though Sri Lanka and China have dismissed New Delhi’s enterprises and passed off the boat’s visit as having to do with routine marine exploration, India’s public security itineraries are induced that the PLA is mapping the Indian Ocean bed to map out new ocean routes to the east and north seacoast of Africa as well as Indian Ocean Littoral States that bypass India altogether. This exploration is a precursor to Chinese strike forces patrolling the high seas in IOR as early as 2025, they believe.