India is keeping a close watch across its Southern neighbourhood following a report that a Chinese scientific research vessel ‘Yuan Wang 5’ will enter Hambantota Port on 11 August for a week to allegedly conduct satellite control and research tracking in the Indian Ocean Region.
What has raised eyebrows here is the timing of the docking of the vessel at the port built by China, probably taking advantage of the political crisis in the island nation, The Economic Times (ET) has learnt. New Delhi is examining the level of local political and military support that China has received for the proposed plan, ET has learnt.
The ship is expected to depart Hambantota on August 17 after replenishment. The ship could conduct satellite control and research tracking in the North-Western part of the Indian Ocean region, according to Y. Ranaraja, Director, Belt and Road Initiative, Sri Lanka (BRISL).
This is the first time since 2014 that such a Chinese Naval vessel is visiting Lanka. In 2014, a Chinese submarine had docked at Colombo drawing India’s ire and the matter was raised at the highest level.
The Chinese scientific research vessel “Yuan Wang 5”will enter Hambantota port on August 11 for a week. It is expected to leave on August 17 after replenishment. It could conduct satellite control and research tracking in the north western part of the Indian Ocean region. pic.twitter.com/lHnlsrfcjf
— Yasiru (@YRanaraja) July 23, 2022
“China’s Yuanwang-5 space-tracking vessel conducting a space-ground information exchange and specially provide significant data support to Zhongxing-2E satellite’s orbit determination and entry. Now the vessel is sailing pass Taiwan towards Hambantota in Sri Lanka,” Ranaraja tweeted.
China has a major say in the Hambantota Port area and much of its activities in the area remain under wraps, according to critics both local and foreign. Sources explained that Yuan Wang 5 is also potentially violating innocent passage requirements in territorial seas as per UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). The vessel, according to experts, has a capability to snoop on a coastal state.
Yuan Wang 5 is the third-generation tracking ship of the Yuan Wang series and entered service in 2007. Built by Jiangnan Shipyard, Yuan Wang 5 has a displacement of 25,000 tonnes and can withstand wind scale up to 12. It is important to note that the Yuan Wang class is not a single class of identical design but a group of different designs under the same series that share one name.