Sunday, July 14, 2024

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Chinese Navy hospital ship to visit Sri Lanka despite moratorium on foreign ships

By: Staff Writer

June 17, Colombo (LNW): In the wake of Sri Lanka’s ban on Chinese research vessels docking in Sri Lanka ports for one year pacifying India’s wary, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy hospital ship “Peace Ark” set sail from a military port in Zhoushan to visit several countries, including Sri Lanka.

The ship set sail from a military port in Zhoushan in east China’s Zhejiang Province on Sunday morning for Mission Harmony-2024.

During the mission, the ship will visit 13 countries, namely, Seychelles, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Angola, the Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Benin, Mauritania, Djibouti and Sri Lanka, and provide medical service to local people. It will also make port calls to France and Greece.

This is the 10th Mission Harmony for “Peace Ark” since its commissioning in 2008. The “Peace Ark” will offer free diagnosis and treatment for common and prevalent diseases to local residents, people in Chinese institutions, and overseas Chinese through onboard clinics and dispatched medical teams.

There are over 100 personnel on board the maritime hospital, featuring 17 clinical departments and 5 auxiliary diagnostic departments.

The “Peace Ark” is the first domestically designed and constructed standard ocean-going hospital ship in China. It has visited 45 countries and regions, providing medical services to over 290,000 people.

Clarifying previous Chinese research vessels to Sri Lanka, China claims the vessels are only for scientific purposes, but the Chinese ships that have docked in Sri Lanka are known to have dual scientific and intelligence-gathering purposes, informed sources said .

The accompanying excerpted articles report on Sri Lanka’s decision for a one-year moratorium on foreign research vessels docking in the country’s ports beginning 1 January 2024, and demonstrate how Sri Lanka continues to be a focal point in tensions between India and China

India’s independent think tank Observer Research Foundation states that Sri Lanka’s moratorium is an attempt to appease India by not allowing Chinese ships to carry out intelligence gathering activities so close to India under the guise of scientific research.

While Sri Lanka has become more economically tied with China over the past several years, it still relies on India as an economic and political partner

Sri Lanka’s ties with India, while strained at times, go back further than its ties with China. An immediate impact of the moratorium resulted in the Chinese ship Xiang Yang Hong 3 being prohibited from docking in Sri Lanka in early January

Sri Lanka’s one year moratorium on foreign ships reflects India’s influence in Sri Lanka. However, the docking of the Xiang Yang Hong 3 in the Maldives likewise demonstrates that India’s ability to influence only extends so far, allowing China to project power and maintain a presence near India.

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