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Days after denying reports about the arrival of a Chinese research vessel, and following India’s “clear message” about “carefully monitoring” the development, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence on Saturday confirmed that the vessel had sought clearance to call at the southern Hambantota Port in August.
The Chinese vessel’s arrival, as The Hindu’s Meera Srinivasan reports from Colombo, could potentially leave Colombo caught between New Delhi and Beijing’s interests once again. While the Ministry of Defence in Colombo did not explain why it had earlier denied the vessel’s arrival, it said “such vessels periodically come from various countries such as India, China, Japan, Australia” and it was “nothing unusual.” However, strategic analysts are closely watching the development, given past tensions between Colombo and New Delhi, especially after Colombo allowed a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine Changzheng 2 to dock at its port in 2014.
Meanwhile, on a visit to New Delhi, Samantha Power, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said “opaque” loans for “headline-grabbing” infrastructure projects, were among the factors behind the current crisis that has engulfed Sri Lanka. Delivering a speech at the IIT-Delhi, Ms. Power praised India’s “swift” action in response to the emergency in Sri Lanka.