India is keeping a close watch across its southern neighborhood following a report that a Chinese scientific research vessel ‘Yuan Wang 5’ will enter Hambantota port on August 11 for a week to allegedly conduct satellite control and research tracking in the Indian Ocean Region.
What has raised eyebrows here is the timing of the docking of the vessel at the port built by China, probably taking advantage of the political crisis in the island nation, ET has learned. New Delhi is examining the level of local political and military support that China has received for the proposed plan, ET has learned.
India has long been worried about dual-use facilities of Chinese infrastructure projects spanning Myanmar to Eastern African states in what comes as a direct challenge to New Delhi’s interests.
The ship is expected to depart Hambantota on August 17 after replenishment. The ship could conduct satellite control and research tracking in the north-western part of the Indian Ocean region, according to Y Ranaraja, Director, Belt & Road Initiative, Sri Lanka (BRISL).
This is the first time since 2014 that such a Chinese naval vessel is visiting Lanka. In 2014, a Chinese submarine had docked at Colombo drawing India’s ire and the matter was raised at the highest level.
“China’s Yuanwang-5 space-tracking vessel conducting a space-ground information exchange and specially provide significant data support to Zhongxing-2E satellite’s
determination and entry. Now the vessel is sailing pass Taiwan towards Hambantota in Sri Lanka,” Ranaraja tweeted.
China has a major say in the Hambantota Port area and much of its activities in the area remain under wraps, according to critics both local and foreign. Sources explained that Yuan Wang 5 is also potentially violating innocent passage requirements in territorial seas as per UNCLOS. The vessel, according to experts, has a capability to snoop on a coastal state.
Yuan Wang 5 is the third-generation tracking ship of the Yuan Wang series and entered service in 2007. Built by Jiangnan Shipyard, Yuan Wang 5 has a displacement of 25,000 tonnes and can withstand wind scale up to 12. It is important to note that the Yuan Wang class is not a single class of identical design, but a group of different designs under the same series that share one name. (Economic Times)