The controversial visit of a Chinese vessel to Hambantota-The Hindu-14-08-2022
Sri Lanka approved the arrival of a Chinese satellite tracking vessel in its southern
Chinese funded Hambantota port.
What is a Chinese satellite tracking vessel?
Yuan Wang 5 was the name of the vessel which was described by the Sri Lankan government as a “scientific research ship”.
Yuan Wang 5 will conduct a “satellite control and research track in the northwestern part of the
Indian Ocean Region” in two months. Vessels of the Yuan Wang class are to be used for tracking and supporting satellite as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles by the People's Liberation Army Strategic Support Force.
Know more about Hambantota port.
The second-largest Lankan port, Hambantota sits on the route connecting Southeast Asia with Africa and West Asia. For China, it is an important stop in its Belt and Road Initiative. Its development was largely funded by China, and in 2017, Colombo handed over its majority stake to a Chinese firm after failing to repay the burgeoning debt. India and the US have repeatedly flagged concerns that Chinese control of this port could harm their interests in the Indian Ocean by becoming a hub for the PLA Navy. Hambantota’s proximity to India has the potential of allowing the Chinese navy just the maritime flex aimed at India that it has been seeking for a long.
Why it is a concern for India?
Located less than 160kms from mainland India, Hambantota port is a strategic worry for the country, from Hambantota, it is easy to spy on Indian vessels and ports.
The ‘Yuan Wang 5’ is a powerful tracking vessel whose significant aerial reach is reportedly around 750 km, which means that several ports in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh could be on China’s radar.
It can also snoop on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power plant, the atomic energy plant at Kalpakkam, the six naval ports across Southern India and also the southern naval command at Kochi.
A geopolitics angle around the Indo-Pacific says that this is part of China’s plans to dominate the Indian Ocean, which saw a setback in the last few years.
The visit of Chinese space- satellite tracker vessel Yuan Wang 5 to Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port has been deferred 'until further consultations,' as the visit caused several tensions in the diplomatic relations of the Island nation with its neighbouring countries like India. The vessel, according to Maritimeoptima.com, a digital tracking platform, is around 600 nautical miles away from the Hambantota port and has also slowed down its voyage to reach Sri Lankan out. India showed its concern to be a spy ship.