China insists that its research vessel “Shi Yang 6’ should visit Sri Lanka in October despite Sri Lanka’s preference to defer it to next month, and President Ranil Wickremesinghe is expected to discuss it, among others, with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his upcoming visit to Beijing, Daily Mirror learns.
According to the Chinese state broadcaster CGTN Shi Yan 6 is a “scientific research vessel” with a 60-member crew, which carries out oceanography, marine geology and marine ecology tests. However, India, the United States and Japan remain inquisitive about the visit as three countries harbouring geopolitical rivalry with China.
Sri Lanka which is under trilateral pressure in this regard has put forward certain conditions for the Chinese authorities in carrying out its operation in Sri Lankan waters. An informed source said the government requested China to exclude the northern part of its territorial waters in research activities because of India’s concerns triggered by geographical proximity.
Also, Sri Lanka wants the ship visit to take place in November because the country is busy with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) summit in Colombo this month with the participation of a large number of delegates from the member states. However, China remains steadfast in its position that the visit should happen this month.
The matter is now going to be yet another diplomatic challenge for the government led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe. It is required to address the issue allaying concerns of India mainly and accommodating China whose support is detrimental in restructuring Sri Lanka’s external debts.
China remains the largest bilateral creditor to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is positioned in a tricky situation, but it is a sine-qua-non to strike the right balance as all four countries are equally important in tiding over the current economic crisis. The President will have a whole baggage to discuss with his Chinese counterpart during the bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) summit.