India has expressed “serious concerns” over the visit of two Chinese ‘spy’ ships and New Delhi has urged Colombo to “prioritise” the key strategic infrastructure projects that are stuck due to domestic issues there, ABP Live has learnt. New Delhi has asked Colombo to resist moves being undertaken by China to “threaten” India’s national security in the maritime domain. India is not ruling out the fact that the recent cyberattacks on AIIMS servers may be linked to the visits of Yuan Wang 5 in August, followed by Yuan Wang 6 in November this year, top level sources told ABP Live.
China had been evidently doing this owing to India’s planned missile tests. Earlier this month, Yuan Wang 5 once again entered the Indian Ocean Region as India planned to test Agni long-range missile.
Expressing “serious threat” to India’s national security, the Narendra Modi government has told Sri Lanka to now push forward the Indian projects stuck there for a decade to avoid a major diplomatic showdown, the sources said.
Among some of the key strategic projects that India is pushing Sri Lanka to push forward in an expeditious manner is development of the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm. India is keen on this project from security perspective more than commercial gains. The project has been pending for decades.
Another project that India wants Sri Lanka to expedite is the West Container Terminal of Colombo Port, which has been a subject of much controversy after the former Rajapaksa government scrapped the deal to let India develop the West Container Terminal under a tripartite deal with Japan.
According to the sources, during a series of dialogue that have taken place between both the sides on this issue, Sri Lanka has told India that it is letting the Chinese ships come in an effort to get them finalise the debt restructuring talks with them to secure the much awaited loan package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The sources also said that though Ranil Wickremesinghe is the President now, it is former President and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who is running an “invisible government” in Sri Lanka and hence the China tilt continues.
Indian Navy Chief Meets President Wickremesinghe
The matter was discussed between the Sri Lankan government and India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and also during the recent visit by Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar to that country, which concluded Saturday.
Rajiv Bhatia, veteran diplomat and Distinguished Fellow of Mumbai-based Gateway House, said: “In the context of China-Sri Lanka bilateral ties, Colombo has to accommodate to some of these demands by Beijing as they really want the Chinese to cooperate on the debt restructuring deal so as to have the IMF loan.”
He added: “It is amply clear that China’s hostility towards India is getting reflected not just in the Line of Actual Control but also in the entire South Asian region as such, concerning our neighbours. Sri Lanka is also aware of the strategic competition going on between India and China in terms of the project.”
During the visit, the Navy chief also called on President Wickremesinghe and the issue of Chinese ships within the Indian Ocean Region concerning the repeated visits by the Chinese research vessels was taken up.
Since January 2022, India has so far offered financial aid to the tune of $4 billion to Sri Lanka to help stabilise their economy. Besides, India has also been actively lobbying for Sri Lanka at the IMF for the loan package. On December 6, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held a meeting with Sri Lankan High Commissioner Milinda Moragoda on this issue. Earlier this month, both sides had successful debt restructuing talks, with New Delhi committing to be a “steadfast friend” for Sri Lanka.