Sri Lanka seeks more information from foreign ships after concerns over Chinese research vessel
COLOMBO – Sri Lanka will seek more information on foreign ships visiting the country, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said, following geopolitical concerns and questions raised over permission granted for Chinese research ships to dock in its ports and carry out surveys.
This comes in the wake of China seeking approval from Sri Lankan authorities for a third research vessel to dock in the country’s port early next year. Two research ships were allowed entry in the last 14 months.
India, Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour, has raised concerns over the two previous research ships citing the possibility of “spying” in the Indian Ocean, deemed a threat to them.
“In principle, we have sought more information before we clear it,” Foreign Minister Ali Sabry told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Friday (8).
“We have introduced a SOP (Standard Operation Procedure) for research vessels and all the vessels. We have circulated them amongst the countries who have sent their military vessels during the last 10 years,” he said.
“Therefore, everything is transparent. We are looking at that (SOP) as the foundation.”
Sri Lanka has not granted approval for the third ship as the new request has come without a local partner and the research area is being decided by Beijing.
Chinese research ship Shi Yan 6 arrived in Sri Lanka late in October this year and docked in Colombo port, for what Beijing said was for “geophysical scientific research” in collaboration with National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA).
India uses the Colombo port as its main transhipment hub and accounts for around 70% of the total transhipment volume of the port.
The new move has added to India’s concerns about China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean along with possible security threats.
In August last year, Chinese navy vessel Yuan Wang 5 docked at Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka.