India had opposed the docking of Chinese 'spy ship' Yuan Wang 5 at Sri Lanka's Hambantota port. However, China has gone ahead and docked the vessel, with certain conditions attached.
A Chinese satellite tracking vessel Yuan Wang 5 docked at Sri Lanka's Hambantota port on August 16 despite India and the US voicing concern about the “military” ship’s visit.
According to port officials, the Yuan Wang 5 was permitted to dock on the condition that it would not carry out research while in Sri Lankan waters.
Sri Lanka's Foreign ministry has said the Yuan Wang 5 will berth in the Chinese-run port till August 22 to stock up on fuel, food and other essentials.
India had opposed the docking of the Chinese ship at the Hambantota port as it feared that China could use the port, which is close to the main Asia-Europe shipping route, as a military base, Reuters reported.
Initially, Sri Lanka had granted the ship permission to visit Hambantota for five days from August 11. However, it later asked China to delay the ship’s arrival.
"India had raised concerns and Sri Lanka requested a delay in the ship’s docking until discussions could be had to resolve these issues," Reuters quoted Sri Lankan Media Minister Bandula Gunawardana as saying.
What is the Yuan Wang 5?
The Yuan Wang 5 is described by foreign security analysts as one of China's latest-generation space-tracking ships that can monitor satellites, rockets and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, Reuters reported. According to the Pentagon, the Yuan Wang class ships are operated by the Strategic Support Force of China’s People's Liberation Army.
China has seven such tracking ships, which are capable of operating throughout the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
Built at China’s Jiangnan Shipyard, the Yuan Wang 5 entered service in September 2007. Stretching across 222 metres in length and 25.2 metres in width, the vessel has tracking technology onboard for transoceanic aerospace observation. Last month, the ship conducted the launch of China’s ‘Long March 5B’ rocket.
Why is India concerned?
India is concerned because the Yuan Wang 5 has sensor capabilities that can track India's ballistic missiles if they are tested, NDTV reported. The ship can gauge the range and accuracy of the missiles.
The ship is also capable of carrying out oceanic surveys, facilitating submarine operations in the Indian Ocean.
The tracking vessel reportedly has around 750 km of aerial reach, which means several ports in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh could come under China’s radar, Indian Express reported.