In recent times, China has begun asserting its military might around the Indo-Pacific region. Internal conflict and Covid mismanagement have also increased the external prospects of conflict by the People’s Liberation Army. It seems that China is planning for some big military escalations.
Initially, China was expected to construct the Hambantota International Port of Sri Lanka with a ‘mutual development’ partnership system. However, with time, debt repayment became difficult and Sri Lanka had to privatise it. As China had already invested in the port construction, a fair bidding process for privatisation was near impossible. Consequently, China Merchant Port Holding Company got a 70% stake with a 99-year lease and became the master of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port. With its military might and dual-use policies, China started to progress its nefarious activities in the Indian Ocean Region.
India Monitoring Chinese Vessels in the region
After the reports of Chinese spy vessel visiting Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, India has increased its surveillance in the region. Replying to a question related to the report, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “The government carefully monitors any development having bearing on India’s security and economic interests and takes all necessary measures to safeguard them”.
Initially denying reports of the arrival of the Chinese research vessel, Sri Lanka’s defence ministry has finally confirmed its scheduled arrival. In the press brief, Sri Lankan officials said, “The vessel will be in Hambantota from August 11 to 17, mainly for replenishment, including fuel”.
Yuan Wang 5: The Spy Vessel
Reports suggest that the scheduled Yuan Wang 5 is China’s spy vessel attached with space and satellite tracking systems. The presence of Yuan Wang 5 in the Indian Ocean Region will compromise India’s security architecture in the region.
According to Y Ranaraja, Director of the Belt and Road Initiative, Sri Lanka, 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 replenishing its resources. It could conduct satellite control and research tracking in the north-western part of the Indian Ocean region.
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 (IMO: 9413054) pic.twitter.com/u5dli89WO4
— Yasiru (@YRanaraja) July 25, 2022
With about 750 km snooping reach, the ship can collect security data of Kalpakkam, Koondankulam, and the Bhabha atomic research centre. The vessel has the capacity to collect critical information about ports and the vital installations present in Southern India. The Chinese spy vessel has the capacity to compromise India’s security net in southern parts of India.
The presence of Yuan Wang 5 at the Hambantota Port is a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Article 17, of the UNCLOS states that “ships of all States would enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea.” Further, Article 19 states that “passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State”. Here Chinese Spy Vessel is clearly violating the UNCLOS and snooping in the region.
China’s nefarious agenda
Using Sri Lanka’s internal conflict, China is now trying to advance its nefarious agenda in the Indian Ocean region. India has traditionally been warning its neighbours of dual-use facilities of China’s projects in the region. However, internal politics and limited resource capabilities led these countries to become a prey of Chinese debt diplomacy. The payment crisis loomed at such a low level that Sri Lanka had to lease Hambantota port for 99 years, effectively losing sovereignty over their land.
In this scenario, India should exert its soft as well as hard power to deter any kind of military activity in the region. The Indian government should help Sri Lanka to free itself from the clutches of China and secure the nation’s security.
The time has come for India to start offensive action against China at every level. The Dragon’s bully behaviour should not be allowed in the rule-based order. India must start prompt action to safeguard its interest.
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