Chinese Research Vessel in Sri Lanka Causes Concerns
This Week Recap
The ship, named Shi Yan 6, was given permission to dock at Sri Lanka's main port for replenishment until Oct. 28, according to foreign ministry spokesman Kapila Fonseka. While the vessel was initially expected to conduct research with Sri Lankan state institutions, Fonseka clarified that permission was granted only for replenishment purposes and no research work would be carried out.
Chinese television network CGTN reported that Shi Yan 6 is a geophysical scientific research vessel on an expeditionary voyage in the eastern area of the Indian Ocean. The vessel, organized by the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is scheduled to operate at sea for 80 days, covering a range of more than 12,000 nautical miles.
China's efforts to expand its influence in Sri Lanka, situated along one of the world's busiest shipping routes, has caused concern for India, which considers the region part of its strategic backyard. In the past, China's free-flowing loans and infrastructure investments gave Beijing an upper hand in Sri Lanka. However, India seized an opportunity when Sri Lanka experienced an economic collapse last year, stepping in with significant financial and material assistance.
Just two weeks ago, Sri Lanka reached an agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China on restructuring its debt, a crucial step towards unlocking a second installment of a $2.9 billion package from the International Monetary Fund aimed at helping the country recover from its economic crisis.
India's concerns about China's growing influence in the region have been further exacerbated by the presence of Chinese naval vessels and now a research ship in Sri Lanka. The docking of Shi Yan 6 is seen as another move by China to assert its presence in the Indian Ocean.
As China continues to expand its reach, particularly through its Belt and Road Initiative, neighboring countries like India are closely monitoring its activities. The presence of Chinese research vessels in the Indian Ocean raises questions about their true objectives and the potential impact on regional dynamics.
With tensions already high between India and China over various territorial disputes, Sri Lanka finds itself caught in the middle of a geopolitical power struggle. As the Shi Yan 6 remains docked in Colombo, it serves as a reminder of China's growing influence and the challenges it poses for neighboring countries in the Indian Ocean region.