Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry stated on Monday that Colombo has not granted permission for a Chinese vessel to dock and added that India's security concerns are "important" for the island nation.
In response to questions about the Chinese research vessel Shi Yan 6 reportedly scheduled to dock in Sri Lanka in October and India's concerns regarding it, Sabry said that they have a standard operating procedure (SOP) and have consulted various friends, including India.
"That's a conversation going on for some period of time. India has expressed its concerns over a long time, but we have come out with the SOP (standard operating procedure). When we were making that, we consulted many of our friends, including India. So, as long as it complies with the SOP, we have no problem. But if it doesn't comply with the SOP, we have a problem," Ali Sabry was quoted as saying by ANI.
Regarding the Chinese vessel Shi Yan 6, Sabry clarified that Sri Lanka has not granted permission for it to dock in October and that negotiations are currently taking place.
"So, therefore, as far as I know, we have not given permission to come to Sri Lanka during October. Negotiations are going on. Indian security concerns, which are legitimate, are very, very important for us. We have always told that because we want to keep our region a zone of peace," said Ali Sabry.
The President of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has confirmed that an SOP has been established for foreign vessels.
According to the Sri Lanka-based Daily Mirror, the Chinese research vessel is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka in October to conduct research in collaboration with the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA).
During a meeting between US Under Secretary Victoria Nuland and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, concerns were raised regarding the visit of the Shi Yan 6.
According to the Daily Mirror report, Sabry informed Nuland that Sri Lanka has established a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for foreign ships and aircraft conducting activities within Sri Lankan territory.
During their meeting at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Sabry assured Nuland that Sri Lanka applies an even-handed approach to all nations, including China, in implementing the SOP.
In response to the presence of the Chinese spy vessel Yuan Wang-5 in Sri Lanka last year, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had emphasised that any developments affecting India's security are "obviously of an interest to us".
"What happens in our neighbourhood, any developments which have a bearing on our security obviously are of an interest to us," Mr Jaishankar said at a joint press conference after the 9th India-Thailand Joint Commission Meeting.
India had expressed its security concerns over the docking of the vessel at the Sri Lankan port as it was shown as a research vessel with the capability of mapping the ocean bed, which is critical to anti-submarine operations of the Chinese Navy.
The Chinese research ship had docked at Sri Lanka's Hambantota Port.
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