Bangkok, Aug 17 (PTI) India monitors any development in its neighbourhood which has a bearing on its security, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday, as a high-tech Chinese research vessel docked at a strategic port in Sri Lanka.
Jaishankar, who arrived here on Tuesday to attend the 9th India-Thailand Joint Commission Meeting, made the remarks when asked about the docking of the ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship ‘Yuan Wang 5’ at the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
“What happens in our neighbourhood, any development, which has a bearing on our security issues, is of interest to us,” Jaishankar said while replying to a question during a press conference along with his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai after the joint commission meeting.
“I think a spokesman had said some time ago, we obviously monitor any development, which has a bearing on our interests very, very carefully. So, I think I will leave at that,” he said.
The Chinese vessel will be docked at the southern Sri Lankan port till August 22 for replenishment, Sri Lankan officials said.
The ship was originally scheduled to arrive at the Chinese-run port on August 11 but it was delayed in absence of permission by the Sri Lankan authorities.
Sri Lanka had asked China to defer the visit amid India’s concerns over it.
On Saturday, Colombo granted the port access to the vessel from August 16 to 22 on condition that it will keep the Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched on within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Sri Lanka and no scientific research to be conducted in Sri Lankan waters.
Sri Lanka has said that the security clearance was granted from the Ministry of Defence for the visit of the vessel for replenishment purposes during the stipulated period.
It said no rotation of personnel would take place during the port call and the Sri Lankan government was requested to provide the necessary assistance by the Chinese Embassy in Colombo.
The security and cooperation in the neighbourhood are of utmost priority in handling the issue of the Chinese vessel, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said in a statement last week.
The local telecommunications regulatory authority had issued a No Objection Letter for the use of frequencies and communication equipment subject to non-interference and non-protection basis.
There were apprehensions in New Delhi about the possibility of the vessel’s tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian defence installations while being on its way to the Sri Lankan port.
China says the ship is used for scientific research, but the US Defense Department says the ship is under the command of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and is capable of tracking satellites and missile launches.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday the ship is conducting scientific research “in accordance with international law.” It “does not affect the security and economic interests of any country, and should not be interfered with by third parties,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in Beijing.
The ship’s arrival at the Hambantota port became controversial as China leased the port from Sri Lanka in 2017 for 99 years after Colombo failed to pay debts related to the construction of the facility.
The arrival of the Chinese ship came a day after India gifted a Dornier maritime reconnaissance aircraft to Sri Lanka which will enable the island nation to tackle multiple challenges like smuggling and other organised forms of crime in its coastal waters more effectively. PTI ZH AKJ ZH ZH
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