NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) – India and China traded insults over their diverging interests in Sri Lanka, after a controversial Chinese scientific research ship called at the island nation despite New Delhi’s security concerns.
Sri Lanka “needs support, not unwanted pressure or unnecessary controversies to serve another country’s agenda”, the Indian embassy in Colombo said on Twitter late on Saturday (Aug 27), referencing the ongoing political and economic turmoil the nation is already battling after defaulting on its debt for the first time.
On Friday, the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka tweeted that the South Asian country had every right to approve a foreign vessel docking at its port.
“External obstruction based on so-called ‘security concerns’ but without any evidence from certain forces is de facto a thorough interference into Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence,” the Chinese mission wrote.
“Some countries, far or near, always make groundless excuses to bully Sri Lanka, and trample on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence repeatedly,” it said, without directly naming India.
Sri Lanka cleared the Yuan Wang 5 to dock at the Hambantota port from Aug 16 to 22 after initially deferring a request from the Chinese embassy to allow the ship a call in mid-August for replenishment purposes.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs said last month that the ship’s movements could have a bearing on its security and economic interests.
The Hambantota port that the vessel stopped at has been plagued by controversy, with the Sri Lankan government having to borrow heavily to construct it.
When Sri Lanka could not repay the loans, it granted China a 99-year lease on the facility for debt relief.
Sri Lanka is currently negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for assistance amid its worst-ever economic crisis.