China's research vessel Yuan Wang 5 docks at Sri Lankan port, dispels India's alienation of ties
Published: Aug 16, 2022 10:14 PM
Captain Zhang Hogwang of China's research and survey vessel, the <em>Yuan Wang 5</em>, waves after disembarking from the ship upon arrival at Hambantota port on August 16, 2022. Photo: VCG

Captain Zhang Hogwang of China's research and survey vessel, the Yuan Wang 5, waves after disembarking from the ship upon arrival at Hambantota port on August 16, 2022. Photo: VCG

China's research vessel Yuan Wang 5 arrived at a Sri Lankan port on Tuesday. Several senior Sri Lankan officials, including the representative of the president, attended the welcoming ceremony hosted by Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. 

The scientific research vessel docked at the Hambantota port on Tuesday morning local time. During the friendly and enthusiastic welcoming ceremony, the national anthems of both China and Sri Lanka were played and the Sri Lankan people performed traditional dances, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin at Tuesday's press conference. 

"The scientific research vessel successfully and smoothly docked at Hambantota Port. This is very normal exchanges between the two countries that enjoy a longstanding friendship," said Ambassador Qi in an interview after the welcoming ceremony. 

Qi also noted that it is not the first time that a Chinese vessel of this kind has visited Sri Lanka. In 2014, a Chinese vessel of the same type, Shi Yan 1, visited Colombo.

Wang confirmed that Yuan Wang 5 will take some time to complete the necessary resupply. 

"China and Sri Lanka are traditionally friendly and close neighbors. Over the years, the two countries have maintained close cooperation in marine scientific research," Wang said. "China is willing to work with Sri Lanka to consolidate political mutual trust and promote the healthy and stable development of relations between the two countries."

Wang stressed that Yuan Wang 5's scientific research activities are in accordance with international law and common practice and should not be interfered with by third parties.

The vessel was originally scheduled to dock at the port of Hambantota on August 11, but India had continuously pressured Sri Lanka to defer the arrival of the Chinese vessel, citing so-called national security concerns.

It is completely unjustified for certain countries to cite so-called security concerns to pressure Sri Lanka, Wang said at an earlier press conference. 

Experts said India has been using its aid to Sri Lanka as leverage for political pressure and interfering in Sri Lanka's private and normal foreign exchanges and cooperation. 

In the past few days, India media has been firing unsubstantiated accusations on the scientific research vessel. It could "track India's ballistic missiles," "gauge the range and accuracy of the Indian missiles," and "facilitate submarine operations," said Indian media outlet NDTV.

In response, Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times that some Indian media have always been on high alert about China's influence. These media hyped up China's normal activities in the Indian Ocean with bias and even tried to stir up China-Sri Lanka relations. 

Such political move from India is also strongly condemned by Sri Lankan scholars.

"The Indian Ocean does not belong to a particular state," Maya Majueran, a director of Belt & Road Initiative Sri Lanka (BRISL), a Sri Lanka-based organization that specializes in BRI cooperation, told the Global Times on Tuesday, also noting that Sri Lanka is an vital nod of the BRI. 

"The Yuan Wang 5 is as a research and survey vessel. China has the right to sail its ships on the international seas," he said. "Sri Lanka is a sovereign country, and we can take our own independent decisions, it's up to us to decide whether to allows Yuan Wang 5 to dock at Sri Lanka port or not."

China is a great friend to Sri Lanka, while India always tries to act as big brother to Sri Lanka, which is not welcomed by most Sri Lankan people, he said. 

"Hambantota port's businesses bring much needed foreign exchange for Sri Lanka. Does Sri Lanka need India and US' permission to do business in our own port?" questioned Majueran.

When asked whether China would provide more assistance to Sri Lanka in its plight, Wang stressed on Tuesday's press briefing that China shares the feeling of the economic and social difficulties Sri Lanka is currently facing.

"We have been providing support and help to Sri Lanka in the past to overcome its economic difficulties as much as we can," he said. "We have done so in the past and we will still do so in the future."