Following India’s lead, the United States has expressed concerns regarding the planned visit of a Chinese research vessel to Sri Lanka in October. The Chinese vessel, named Shi Yan 6, is set to undertake scientific research projects during an 80-day operation in the Indian Ocean, with 13 research teams on board.
In a recent meeting between Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, the U.S. raised its apprehensions about the upcoming visit of the Chinese research vessel. Sabry assured the American official that Sri Lanka would adhere to a newly established “Standard Operating Procedure” for all foreign vessels intending to visit Sri Lankan ports.
India had previously conveyed its concerns about the Chinese research vessel to Sri Lankan authorities. This underscores a growing international interest in the situation.
Sri Lankan Response
While Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence has recommended the visit, an official comment from the Foreign Ministry is still pending. Local media reports suggest that the defence authorities have given clearance for the vessel’s visit.
Chinese Research Mission
The Chinese research vessel, Shi Yan 6, is part of a geophysical scientific research expedition organized by the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology (SCSIO) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It will operate in the eastern Indian Ocean for 80 days, conducting 28 scientific research projects spanning more than 12,000 nautical miles.
This planned visit follows a series of notable events involving Chinese vessels in Sri Lanka. Last year, a Chinese warship docked at Colombo port, causing tensions between India and Sri Lanka. In August of the same year, Chinese military ship Yuan Wang 5 arrived at Hambantota port, despite strong reservations expressed by India and the U.S. China has consistently maintained that such concerns are unfounded.
Colombo’s decision to permit these visits strained diplomatic ties with India, occurring at a time when India was providing significant economic relief to Sri Lanka during its financial crisis. Sri Lankan officials have repeatedly assured India that their territory would not be used for activities that could threaten India’s security interests in the region.
Meanwhile, India’s High Commission in Colombo recently organized a curtain-raiser event for the Global Maritime India Summit (GMIS), scheduled for October 17 to 19, 2023, in Mumbai. Sri Lanka’s Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Aviation, Nimal Siripala de Silva, emphasized the importance of close collaboration, knowledge exchange, and the adoption of new technologies for the growth of the maritime sector in the region.