External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, on Tuesday, acknowledged that the movement of Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean has increased multiple folds in the past two decades and added New Delhi has been closely monitoring Chinese naval activities.
"Last 20 -25 years, there has been a steady increase in the Chinese naval presence and activity in the Indian Ocean, but there has been a very sharp increase in the size of Chinese naval. When you have a very much bigger navy, that navy is going to be visible in terms of its deployment somewhere," Jaishankar said while speaking at the ‘Discussion at Council on Foreign Relations’ in New York.
“In our case, we have seen Chinese port activity, and buildings, you mentioned Gwadar, there is a port called Hambantota in Sri Lanka. There are a few others. In many cases, I would say looking back, the governments of the day, and the policymakers of the day perhaps underestimated the importance of this and how these ports could work in the future. Each one is unique in a way,” Jaishankar said.
He added, “We do watch many of them very carefully for any security implications...From an Indian point of view, it’s very reasonable for us to prepare for a far greater Chinese presence than we have seen before."
Sri Lanka says it will allow Chinese ships if...
Notably, the statement from Jaishankar came after Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, claimed that the government would permit a Chinese research vessel to dock at Colombo port in October. According to media reports, Shi Yan 6 ship has entered the Indian Ocean and its current location is mid-ocean 90 East Ridge and heading towards Sri Lanka.
While speaking to news agency ANI on Monday, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said that his country has not permitted the Shi Yan 6. He emphasised that Indian security concerns were important to the Island Nation. However, Sabry asserted that negotiations were underway to allow the vessel- "if it follows the standard operation protocols".
Notably, the Chinese vessel is scheduled to conduct joint military scientific research in the Sri Lankan EEZ and beyond in October-November 2023.
(With inputs from agency)