The Ministry of Defence has granted approval for the Chinese geophysical and seismic survey vessel ‘Shi Yan 6’ to carry out research on Sri Lankan waters with the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA).
A Spokesman of the Ministry of Defence stated that the approval was granted on request by NARA and the Foreign Ministry.
China had requested permission for a research ship to dock in Sri Lanka, following a visit by a spacecraft-tracking vessel last year that sparked security concerns from neighbouring India.
However, the Chinese state broadcaster CGTN calls the Shi Yan 6 a “scientific research vessel” crewed by 60 that carries out oceanography, marine geology and marine ecology tests.
Last year, India raised concerns over a Sri Lanka port call in Hambantota by Chinese research vessel Yuan Wang 5, which specialises in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship.
India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka, seeing both as firmly within its sphere of influence.
Sri Lanka is strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.
Meanwhile, China last year said it was “completely unjustified for certain countries” to cite “security concerns” to pressure Sri Lanka.