China decries India's 'unjustified' meddling after Sri Lanka defers Chinese research vessel
Published: Aug 09, 2022 04:38 PM Updated: Aug 09, 2022 04:25 PM
China Sri Lanka Photo:VCG

China Sri Lanka Photo:VCG

Chinese officials and experts have blasted what they called an unjustified and morally irresponsible move by India in interfering in normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Sri Lanka, after the latter on Monday deferred a previously approved port call of a Chinese research vessel following India's objections. 

In a statement on Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka said it has communicated to the Chinese Embassy in Colombo to defer the visit of Yuan Wang 5, which was due to arrive at the Hambantota port on Thursday.

Sri Lanka approved the visit on July 12, following which Indian authorities raised so-called security concerns. In its statement on Monday, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry did not mention India or give any specific reason for the reversal.

"Subsequently in light of the need for further consultations, the Ministry has communicated to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Colombo to defer the visit of the said vessel to the Hambantota port," it said.

The ministry further reaffirmed "the enduring friendship and excellent relations between Sri Lanka and China, which remain on a solid foundation," and "Sri Lanka's firm commitment to the one-China policy, which has been a consistent principle in the country's foreign policy." 

Sri Lanka's Ambassador to China Palitha Kohona told the Global Times on Tuesday that he is in consultations with China. The ambassador also told the Global Times on Monday night that he was very upset and hurt about what happened, and that he has been talking to his president, prime minister and foreign minister continuously.

Chinese officials and experts repeatedly criticized India for meddling in normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Sri Lanka, and stressed that China-Sri Lanka ties are mutually beneficial.

Asked about media reports of Sri Lanka's decision to defer the port call at a press briefing on Monday, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that scientific research vessels from various countries including China have made port calls in Sri Lanka for replenishment, and to have normal cooperation is the independent choice made by our two countries.

"It is completely unjustified for certain countries to cite so-called security concerns to pressure Sri Lanka. As Sri Lanka grapples with economic and political difficulties, to grossly interfere in Sri Lanka's normal exchanges and cooperation with other countries is to exploit its vulnerability, which is morally irresponsible and against the basic norms governing international relations," Wang said. 

The decision to defer the port call of the Chinese vessel is a result of political pressure from India, which has clearly overreacted to the normal activity of the Chinese vessel, Zhao Gancheng, a research fellow at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"By pressing Sri Lanka, India is interfering in Sri Lanka's private and normal foreign exchanges and cooperation, using its aid to Sri Lanka as leverage for political pressure," Zhao added.

Sri Lanka is facing an economic crisis, and it relies heavily on India's aid. India signaled its willingness to go beyond the $4 billion in loans, swaps and aid that it has already provided to its cash-strapped neighbor, Reuters reported.

However, Zhao said that the move will not affect further cooperation between China and Sri Lanka.