Issue over the Chinese ‘research’ ship – Indian Minister’s visit ‘deferred’

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who was due in Sri Lanka yesterday, suddenly called off his visit on Friday night, with no official reason made public by either Colombo or New Delhi for the cancellation, the Sunday times reported.

The Sri Lankan Government was informed on Friday evening that the minister was indisposed, and the Indian High Commission issued a brief statement the same night saying the visit had been “deferred” and fresh dates were to be decided later, without giving reasons for the cancellation. The Indian Defence Ministry, however, said on Friday that “due to unavoidable circumstances” the visit was being called off but the Minister “remains committed to strong bilateral cooperation” between the two countries and looks forward to visiting Sri Lanka “at the earliest possible time frame”.

The ‘deferred’ visit of the Minister comes against the backdrop of a simmering issue over the visit of a Chinese ‘research’ ship that has been granted permission ‘in principle’ to dock in Sri Lanka amidst opposition by India, which claims the ship is a ‘spy ship’ and inimical to the security of India.

There was little confirmation if the cancellation of the visit was connected to the Chinese vessel being granted permission.

The Sunday Times learns that though the Chinese ship has been granted permission to dock in Sri Lanka, the details are yet to be worked out. These details also include which ports it will call at, the duration of the visit, and the exact work it will be engaged in while in Sri Lankan waters. The National Aquatic Research Agency has strongly supported the ship’s visit, saying its scientists hope to be engaged with the vessel’s work

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