Chinese submarine docks in Sri Lanka despite Indian concerns

Tuesday, 4 November 2014 02:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Sri Lanka has allowed a Chinese submarine and a warship to dock at its port in the capital Colombo, officials said on Sunday, despite concerns raised by India about China’s warming relations with the Indian Ocean island nation. Submarine Changzheng-2 and warship Chang Xing Dao arrived at the port on Friday, seven weeks after another Chinese submarine, a long-range deployment patrol, had called at the same port ahead of a visit to South Asia by Chinese President Xi Jinping. “A submarine and a warship have docked at Colombo Harbour. They called on 31 October and will be here for five days for refuelling and crew refreshment,” Sri Lankan Navy Spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya said. “This is nothing unusual. Since 2010, 230 warships have called at Colombo Port from various countries on goodwill visits and for refuelling and crew refreshment.” However, the frequency of Chinese visits has become a concern for New Delhi, Indian officials have told Reuters. “India has raised concerns over this but not aggressively,” an Indian official familiar with diplomatic discussions between the neighbours told Reuters.

 China dismisses India’s concerns, submarine docking in Sri Lanka was ‘nothing unusual’

Beijing: Dismissing India’s concerns over China’s influence in the Indian Ocean, China said today that it is not unusual for its naval vessels to dock at Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port. China’s Defense Ministry said Monday it is a routine practice for its vessels to dock at Colombo port for crew replenishment and refueling after Sri Lanka allowed a second submarine to dock at its main port on Friday. “It is an international common practice for navy submarine to stop for refueling and crew refreshment at an oversea port,” an official from China’s Defense Ministry told China’s news agency Xinhua. Submarine Changzheng-2 and warship Chang Xing Dao have reportedly arrived at the Colombo port for five-day visit despite the concerns raised by India over the growing influence of China in its backyard. Another Chinese submarine called at the same port ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the island in September. The official said the Chinese submarine docks during its escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia. Sri Lankan navy spokesperson Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya acknowledged the Chinese vessels’ arrival at the Colombo port Friday. “A submarine and a warship have docked at Colombo harbor. They called on Oct. 31 and will be here for five days for refueling and crew refreshment,” news agencies quoted Commander Warnakulasuriya as saying. According to the spokesperson, hundreds of foreign naval vessels have docked at Sri Lankan ports. “This is nothing unusual. Since 2010, 230 warships have called at Colombo port from various countries on goodwill visits and for refueling and crew refreshment,” Commander Warnakulasuriya said. India has become uneasy with China’s influence on Sri Lanka as China has funded massive infrastructure projects to the tune of US$ 5 billion in the island nation including the Hambantota international port and harbor, roads, railways, the US$ 1.2 billion coal power plant. Bilateral trade between the two countries exceeded US$ 3.62 billion last year and the two countries plan to sign a Free Trade agreement in June 2015. Sri Lanka’s recent commitment to support China’s Maritime Silk Road, which is seen as a vital strategic project for China in the Indian Ocean to increase China’s presence in South Asian shipping routes, has also unnerved India.
China has invested heavily in Sri Lanka in recent years, funding airports, roads, railways and ports, a development that has unsettled India, traditionally the closest economic partner of the island nation of 21 million people. India has already raised concerns over an aircraft maintenance facility following speculation it could be built in the eastern port city of Trincomalee, which India considers a strategic location in national security terms. R. Hariharan, a retired colonel from the Indian Army and an associate at the Chennai Centre for China Studies, said India was concerned about the latest docking of a Chinese submarine at a Sri Lankan port for many reasons. “For the first time, Chinese submarines are being made part of the PLA (the People’s Liberation Army) in the Indian Ocean Region fleet operation in the Gulf of Aden on anti-piracy, which is not a common practice,” he told Reuters. A 1987 accord between India and Sri Lanka provides that respective territories – including Trincomalee – will not be used for activities prejudicial to each other’s unity, integrity and security.