The Chinese vessel, Yuan Wang 5, was initially scheduled to dock in the port from Aug. 11 to Aug. 17 for replenishment but Sri Lanka’s government requested a deferral due to India’s security objections.
“The following conditions highlighted by the Ministry of Defense were also stated—keeping the Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched on within the EEZ of Sri Lanka and no scientific research to be conducted in Sri Lankan waters,” it stated.
The ministry said that Sri Lanka will uphold its “policy of cooperation and friendship with all countries” while placing the security and cooperation of its neighbors as its “utmost priority.”
“It is Sri Lanka’s intention to safeguard the legitimate interests of all countries, in keeping with its international obligations,” it added.
The Hambantota port was leased to China for 99 years in 2017 after Sri Lanka failed to repay $1.4 billion in loans, but India has been concerned that Beijing would use the port as a military base.
New Delhi has increasingly been wary of the growing Chinese presence in its region.
Maritime Surveillance AircraftA day before the vessel’s arrival, India’s government gifted a Dornier reconnaissance aircraft to Sri Lanka to “strengthen the maritime security” of the country.
The aircraft will be used by Sri Lankan navy and air force personnel who received four months of training in India on aircraft operation, according to the Indian High Commission.
The maritime surveillance aircraft is expected to help enhance the security of the Indian Ocean region at large.
“The aircraft would act as a force multiplier, enabling Sri Lanka to tackle multiple challenges such as human and drug trafficking, smuggling, and other organized forms of crime in its coastal waters more effectively,” it stated.
“Induction of the aircraft is timely in view of the current challenges to Sri Lanka’s maritime security,” the Indian High Commission added.