News Brief

'Will Not Take Sides': Sri Lanka Reopens Ports To Global Research Vessels Including China Despite Controversy

Bhuvan Krishna

Jul 08, 2024, 04:23 PM | Updated 04:23 PM IST

A port in Sri Lanka (X)
A port in Sri Lanka (X)

Starting next year, Sri Lanka will once again allow foreign research vessels to call at its ports, as the government maintains a stance of neutrality, refusing to single out China for exclusion.

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry has made this announcement to Japanese state media NHK World during a visit to Tokyo.

Japan, along with India and France, co-chairs Sri Lanka’s Official Creditors’ Committee, which finalised a debt treatment agreement with Sri Lanka on 26 June 2024.

“We cannot apply different rules for different countries and only block China. We will not do that. We will not take sides,” Sabry stated in the interview.

Earlier, in January 2024, Sri Lanka had banned visits from foreign research vessels following concerns raised by India and the United States over visits by Chinese research vessels Shi Yan 6 and Yuan Wang 5 in the preceding years.

In recent years, Sri Lanka’s ports have become strategic focal points for competing global powers.

In May last year, China Merchants Group announced a nearly $400 million investment to construct a large logistics complex at Colombo Port, marking the first major foreign investment in Sri Lanka since its 2022 default.

India, along with its Quadrilateral Security Dialogue partners — the US, Japan and Australia — has focused on countering Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean Region.

In 2020, India promoted the revival of the Colombo Security Conclave with Sri Lanka and the Maldives, later expanding to include Mauritius, Seychelles and Bangladesh.

Additionally, during his visit to Colombo on 20 June 2024, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar inaugurated a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at the Colombo Naval Headquarters, with a sub-centre in the southern Hambantota district and unmanned installations along Sri Lanka’s coastline.

Bhuvan Krishna is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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