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Big win for India? Sri Lanka tells China no research vessels for next 12 months: Report

Source : WION

New Delhi: Sri Lanka has reportedly informed India that it will not allow any Chinese research vessel to dock at its port or operate within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for one year, Hindustan Times reported while citing people aware of the matter. 

The declared moratorium was conveyed to India through diplomatic channels last week, the publication further reported.

Big win for India? Sri Lanka tells China no research vessels for next 12 months: Report

Big win for India? Sri Lanka tells China no research vessels for next 12 months: Report

File photos of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese leaders Xi Jinping and Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe Photograph:(Agencies)

What does it mean?

Diplomatically, it would mean a major win for India’s efforts to stall China’s maritime expansion in the Indian Ocean. For the immediate future, it means that Chinese scientific research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 3, which was scheduled to conduct “deep water exploration” in the south Indian Ocean from January 5, 2024, to late May, will not be granted a clearance by Sri Lankan authorities.

China has also asked the current pro-Beijing Mohammed Muizzu regime in Maldives to let the 4,600-tonne Xiamen-based vessel survey the coast of Male.

Immediate backdrop

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his meeting with Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe in July 2023 had called for the respect for India’s strategic and security concerns.

Colombo’s reported move also means a setback for the Chinese effort to woo the current Sri Lankan leadership after the Hambantota debt row. Sri Lanka’s President Ranil  Wickremesinghe visited Beijing for the 10th anniversary of the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) on October 17-18. 

India and the US last week flagged Colombo entertaining Chinese scientific research vessels and ballistic missile trackers in the Indian Ocean and providing them logistical support.

India had raised objections to the Chinese research vessel Shi Yan 6 conducting a joint maritime survey with the Sri Lankan maritime agency in October-November, but Colombo allowed the vessel to dock at its seaport later.

The research vessel reached Colombo on October 25, and crossed the Malacca Straits on December 2.

The Hindustan Times report cites the instances of at least 25 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ships entering the Indian Ocean Region.

Since 2019, a total of 48 Chinese scientific research vessels have been deployed in the Indian Ocean Region, the report adds.

(With inputs from agencies) 

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