Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang 5's impending Sri Lanka visit and why India is concerned
New Delhi, Aug 10: Yuan Wang 5, the Chinese research and Survey vessel, en route to the Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka has sent alarm bells to South Asian countries, especially India.
The vessel in question is supposed to come to Hambantota Port on August 11 and stay there until August 17.
What is Yuan Wang 5?
The Yuan Wang 5 is a dual-use spy, research, and survey vessel which is employed for space and satellite tracking and with specific usage in intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
It is a third-generation tracking ship of the Yuan Wang Series, which came into service on September 29, 2007, and was designed by China's 708 Research Institute, according to News 18.
It is a highly sophisticated missile range instrumentation ship with top-of-the-line antennas and electronic equipment to support the launching and tracking of missiles and rockets," the report adds.
This vessel is in control of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) under its Strategic Support Force (SSF) unit. The SSF focuses on space, cyber, and electronic warfare.
Why India is concerned?
The move has raised India's concerns as the vessel, Yuan Wang 5, is equipped to track space, satellites, and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
New Delhi has questioned the real purpose of the Chinese spy ship's sail which has a range of more than 750 km as a security threat to strategic installations in the southern Indian states.
The spy ship can bring on its radar India's largest nuclear power plants situated in Kalapakkam and Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu.
The ties between India and Sri Lanka had come under strain after Colombo gave permission to a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine to dock in one of its ports in 2014.
India protests against Yuan Wang 5 visit
On July 12, amidst the political turmoil in Sri Lanka, the then government approved the Chinese vessel's docking at the Hambantota port.
The southern deep-sea port of Hambantota is considered strategically important for its location.
The port, located in the hometown of the Rajapaksa family, has been developed largely with Chinese loans.
According to media reports in Colombo, India has informed Sri Lanka that the docking of the high-tech Chinese research vessel could pose a threat to its national security.
Sri Lanka received strong messages of protests from India as the ship was said to have the capability to track satellites and intercontinental ballistic missiles, the report said.
India has said it carefully monitors any development having a bearing on its security and economic interests.
"We are aware of reports of a proposed visit by this vessel to Hambantota in August," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in New Delhi when asked about the reports of a proposed visit by a Chinese vessel.
"The government carefully monitors any development having a bearing on India's security and economic interests and takes all necessary measures to safeguard them," he said last month.
New Delhi is concerned about the possibility of the ship's tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian installations while being on its way to the Sri Lankan port.
Sri Lanka asks China to defer spy ship visit
Sri Lanka's foreign ministry has asked the Chinese embassy in Colombo to defer the planned visit of Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang 5 to a Lankan port until further consultations, after India raised concerns over the potential presence of a Chinese military vessel so close.
The permission to dock was given by former Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa before he fled the country amid the economic crisis.
"The ministry wishes to request that the arrival date of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota be deferred until further consultations are made on this matter," the Lankan foreign ministry said in a letter to the Chinese embassy.