Sunday, February 5, 2023

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India expresses concern over allowing mid-sea refueling of Chinese warships

India has expressed serious concerns to Colombo for allowing surreptitious refueling of Chinese military vessels on high seas with Sri Lankan tankers picking up fuel from Chinese leased Hambantota seaport, Indian media reported.

According to diplomats based in Colombo, New Delhi has asked Sri Lanka to come up with transparent standard operation procedures (SOPs) for refueling and docking of ships and not allow Chinese military vessels to either dock or refueled at Hambantota or Colombo ports.

It was noticed that Sri Lankan vessels were loading fuel from Hambantota port and refueling Chinese warships on high seas to bypass Indian and the larger US concerns.

It is understood that currently there are no Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean Region except for those plying in the name of anti-piracy task force off the coast of East Africa. “

The Chinese warships continue to ply off the coast of East Africa and the Gulf of Aden while there is hardly any pirate activity in the region. It was the anti-piracy pretext that China used to secure a base in Djibouti,” said a Beijing watcher.

Both US and India had clearly told Colombo not to allow docking of Chinese military vessels and strategic surveillance ships on its ports after the Ranil Wickremesinghe government allowed Chinese ballistic missile tracking ship Wang Yuan 5 to dock at Hambantota despite India red-flagging the move.

The ship stayed at Hambantota port for six days last August and then turned back to its home port in Shanghai after surveillance of Indian Ocean south of the Island nation.

The Biden administration raised strong objections to the docking of Wang Yuan 5 at Hambantota port, which was leased for 99 years by Wickremesinghe in 2017 to Beijing under the Rajapaksa regime. China has also been given tax incentives in the Colombo area for 40 years.

While Sri Lanka did not accede to Pakistani request to dock Chinese built frigate PNS Taimur at Trincomalee port, it gave permission to the warship to pay “goodwill” visit to Colombo port last August despite Indian objections.

It is understood that a senior Pakistan Navy official is visiting Colombo mid-November much to chagrin of India.

While a cash strapped Sri Lanka looks toward India for fuel, food and medicine supply to overcome ongoing economic crisis, it continues to play around with India’s main adversaries with impunity as the political leadership has accumulated IOUs from Beijing in the past.

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