The Chinese spy ship ‘Shi Yan 6’ has entered the Malacca strait, bound for Colombo, amid confusion over whether Sri Lanka has granted access for the spy vessel to dock at Colombo.
According to reports last month, the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry has granted Shi Yan 6 access to dock at Colombo port. However, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated that the request is still under consideration, and approval has not been granted.
“The ministry has not granted permission to the Shi Yan 6 as of last evening,” reiterated Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Priyanga Wickramasinghe.
Wickramasinghe further added that the dates and territories for the survey are yet to be finalised.
This development comes after Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh decided to skip his visit to Sri Lanka, which was scheduled for last month, following reports of the vessel’s approval to dock in Colombo.
The spy ship is scheduled to conduct research activities in collaboration with Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency.
According to reports, the Shi Yan 6 is on an 80-day exploration mission, during which it will conduct joint surveys of the waters surrounding the islands, in cooperation with the Sri Lankan Navy.
Just a month ago, another Chinese People’s Liberation Army navy warship, Hai Yang 24 Hao, docked at Colombo for a two-day visit.
It is worth noting that India expressed its concern last year when another Chinese spy vessel, Yuan Wang 5, made a port call in Hambantota, Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, facing financial challenges, regards both India and China as pivotal partners in its efforts to restructure external debt. China is one of the primary lenders to Sri Lanka, with the country owing $7.1 billion to bilateral creditors, with a significant portion, $3 billion, attributed to China.
Negotiations for restructuring Sri Lanka’s external and domestic debt must be concluded by the end of September, conforming with the International Monetary Fund’s review of the $2.9 billion bailout granted in March of this year.
In 2022, the island nation faced an unprecedented financial crisis, the most severe since gaining independence from Britain in 1948, primarily stemming from a critical shortage of foreign exchange reserves.