COLOMBO : The Tribune reports that the Chinese ocean research vessel Shi Yan 6 “has been cleared by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence to dock at Colombo. The ship will operate for nearly three months in the east Indian Ocean region.”
Chinese “research ships” are said to usually have “dual purposes”, says The Tribune — while the primary aim is scientific exploration, what raises the hackles of other countries is the geopolitical purposes for which they are also deployed. On Shi Yan 6, a statement published by the Chinese state broadcaster CGTN said the ship would help “strengthen scientific research cooperation and exchanges with countries along the Maritime Silk Road and further realise the integration of science and education for Belt and Road Initiative”.
Sri Lanka’s NewsFirst cites international maritime tracking data as demonstrating that the Chinese geophysical scientific research vessel Shi Yan 6, which has also attracted India’s attention, will reach the port of Colombo on September 29. Last month, another Sri Lankan news portal had reported that the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence had “granted approval for the Chinese geophysical and seismic survey vessel ‘Shi Yan 6’ to carry out research on Sri Lankan waters with the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA).” A Spokesman of the Ministry of Defence was quoted as saying that the approval was granted on request by NARA and the Foreign Ministry.
Navbharat Times, in a report datelined Colombo, writes that Sri Lanka has “deceived India, (Bharat ko diya dhoka)”. The ship, the second after a year, has caused consternation in India, and there were reports in August that Sri Lanka was processing a request by China to allow a research ship to dock in the country, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on August 23, a year after a visit by a Chinese spy vessel to the Island nation raised security concerns in India.
“The Chinese embassy here has made an application and the ministry is currently looking at it,” Priyanga Wickramasingha, the foreign ministry spokesperson, told PTI at the time. The ship is expected to undertake research jointly with Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA).
In August 2022, a visit by a Chinese ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship, Yuan Wang 5, which arrived in the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota led to a sharp set of responses from India. Concerns were expressed about the ability of the ship to engage in surveillance of Indian marine assets while on its way to Sri Lanka.