ECONOMYNEXT – Indian Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka during the weekend (September 2) to review bilateral defence ties, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.
The Indian defence minister’s visit comes amid a Chinese request to dock its research vessel Shi Yan 6 at the ports of Sri Lanka from October 26 to November 10. India has already raised security concerns with the Sri Lankan government over the Chinese ship.
Sri Lanka has yet to officially approve the Chinese request, government officials say.
“During the visit, Shri Rajnath Singh will hold talks with President and Defence Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena,” the Indian High Commission said in a statement.
“The entire gamut of India’s defence ties with Sri Lanka will be reviewed during these meetings. The Defence Minister will also visit Nuwara Eliya and Trincomalee.”
“The visit is an important landmark in deepening the enduring bonds of friendship between the two countries in the defence sphere.”
Last year, China was allowed to dock its first research vessel in the deep southern port of Hambantota amid Indian concerns, Foreign Ministry officials have said.
As per the 13th amendment of the Sri Lankan constitution incorporated after a 1987 Indo-Lanka accord, Sri Lanka has to keep New Delhi informed if there is anything that could have security concerns for India.
The Chinese ship has requested to dock at Colombo Port and Hambantota Port and be involved in research operations in the ocean around Sri Lanka. According to the Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, the Shi Yan 6 is a “scientific research vessel” crewed by 60 that carries out oceanography, marine geology and marine ecology tests.
Defence analysts say India is worried over increasing Chinese activities in the ocean surrounding the country and sees it as a security threat.
India has been interested in the mineral-resource rich eastern port district of Trincomalee since the mid 1970s. It already is handling the island nation’s only oil tank farm in this district while it has also been given approval to construct a renewable energy plant.
In 2014, Sri Lanka’s then president Mahinda Rajapaksa allowed two Chinese submarines to be docked in Colombo port, disregarding Indian concerns.
A few months later, Rajapaksa was defeated in the presidential poll when he sought a third term by his own party secretary Maithripala Sirisena. India and its intelligence agency RAW denied its association with Rajapaksa’s defeat though the former president accused India of being behind his defeat. (Colombo/September 01/2023)