Ranil reiterates sovereignty with Chinese envoy amid fresh Indian concerns

COLOMBO – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday (4) emphasized the United Nations charter principles on sovereignty and territorial integrity at a meeting with Chinese Ambassador to Colombo amid an intensifying cold war between Beijing and Delhi, with India raising fresh security concerns over a military ship calling at the island nation’s port.

Chinese research and survey vessel Yuan Wang 5, en route to Sri Lanka’s Chinese-built $1.5 billion Hambantota port is due on August 11.  It is expected to be docked for six days. India has raised security concerns with Wickremeesinghe over what it suspects is a “spy ship”.

Wickremesinghe government has said the ship is coming to refuel as in the past and not for any other purpose, while cabinet spokesman Bandula Gunawadana this week said the President had briefed on the ship and told the cabinet that diplomatic efforts will be made with both India and China to not create any issues.

“During a meeting with Qi Zhenghong, Ambassador of China, I reiterated Sri Lanka’s firm commitment to the one-China policy, as well as to the UN Charter principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations,” Wickremesinghe tweeted.

The ship is the latest diplomatic issue Sri Lanka is facing and the first since Wickremesinghe became the president, succeeding Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who resigned after fleeing the country fearing for his life amid public protests that saw tens of thousands of people flocking in Colombo to demand his resignation.

China last week said it hoped “relevant parties” would refrain from interfering with its legitimate maritime activities. However, Indian officials have raised questions over the duration of refueling.

China has long rejected claims of Beijing looking for a military base in Sri Lanka, counteraccusing India of interfering in Sri Lanka that resulted in forcing Colombo government to reverse renewable energy projects through international tender process in the island nation’s north.

Wickremesinghe also said non-interference in the internal affairs of countries are important.

“Countries must refrain from provocations which further escalate the current global tensions. Mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of countries are important foundations for peaceful cooperation and non-confrontation,” he said in a follow up tweet.

India is concerned that the Chinese-leased Hambantota port will be used by China as a military base in India’s backyard.

India has been the top lender to Sri Lanka facing an economic meltdown that has affected all segments of society. In return, Sri Lanka finalized some projects that had been dragged for a long time including the oil tank farm deal in Trincomalee.

Colombo-based political analysts and former military officials have said India’s intelligence agents helped to put up an unlikely coalition to defeat former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015 when Rajapaksa administration allowed two nuclear submarine to be docked in Colombo port, used for Indian transshipment of goods.

India, however, has denied such interference.



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