Chinese officials are reportedly seeking a meeting with top Sri Lankan officials after the Colombo government, citing security objections voiced by India, requested that the planned visit of a Chinese vessel be postponed.
Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry wrote to the Chinese Embassy on Aug. 5 asking that China defer the arrival of its space and satellite tracking research vessel Yuan Wang 5 to the port in Hambantota "until further consultations are made on this matter."
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe also met with Chinese ambassador Qi Zhenhong on Aug. 4, during which he reaffirmed the United Nations Charter principles of territorial integrity.
The crisis-hit nation had also initiated diplomatic talks with both India and China to reach "an amicable solution" regarding the vessel's arrival to avoid any potential clashes.
Local media reported that the former government had given approval on July 12 for the vessel to dock in the port, during mass protests that had thrown the government into turmoil.
India's ConcernsIndia is concerned that the Chinese-built and -leased port of Hambantota will be used by China as a military base in India's backyard. The $1.5 billion port sits near the main maritime shipping route from Asia to Europe.
Diplomatic relations between India and China have been strained since clashes in 2020 between troops along a remote Himalayan border. At least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed in the fighting, which led to a massive buildup of troops on both sides.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said in May that while China had expressed hopes to restore normalcy with India, from India's perspective, the threat to the restoration of peace and tranquility on the border was ongoing aggressions by the Chinese regime.
China is one of Sri Lanka's biggest lenders and has also financed airports, roads, and railways, unsettling India. As Sri Lanka battles its worst economic crisis in seven decades, India this year alone has provided nearly $4 billion in support.Reuters contributed to this report.