Central India Takes Action to Counter Chinese Influence in Sri Lanka

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India is seeking to increase its influence in Sri Lanka, which is currently facing a crisis, especially after China has made significant progress in the country. On Thursday, India acknowledged reports regarding a planned visit by a Chinese vessel to a Sri Lankan port funded by Beijing.

According to shipping data from Refinitiv Eikon, the research and survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 is on its way to the southern Sri Lankan port of Hambantota and is expected to arrive on August 11.

During a weekly media briefing, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi stated that the government closely monitors any developments that could impact India’s security and economic interests, and will take necessary steps to protect them. However, he did not elaborate on the specific measures being taken or the intended recipients of the message.

There was no immediate response from China’s foreign ministry regarding the matter, and Sri Lankan officials were unavailable for comment.

A Sri Lankan government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, revealed that Indian diplomats in Colombo had raised concerns with the Sri Lankan foreign ministry on Monday.

According to the Sri Lankan consulting firm Belt and Road Initiative Sri Lanka, Yuan Wang 5 will be in Hambantota for a week to conduct space tracking, satellite control, and research tracking in the north-western Indian Ocean region throughout August and September.

In 2017, Sri Lanka handed over commercial operations in its primary southern port to a Chinese company on a 99-year lease due to financial difficulties. Concerns have been raised by US and Indian officials that the port could potentially be used as a Chinese military base.

As Sri Lanka faces its most severe economic crisis in decades, India has provided nearly $4 billion in support this year alone.

Indian security analyst Nitin A. Gokhale referenced a past incident where Sri Lanka allowed a Chinese submarine and warship to dock in Colombo in 2014, causing tensions with India. He questioned whether the proposed visit to Hambantota was a harmless port call or a deliberate provocation.

Amid tensions over a potential visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, US President and China’s Xi Jinping had their fifth call as leaders on Thursday. Additionally, Taiwan’s military fired flares to deter a drone near a strategically important island close to the Chinese coast that was possibly testing its defenses.

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