South Asia and Beyond

‘Little Is Known About Yuan Wang’s Capabilities But The Worst Is Suspected’

NEW DELHI: At the time of writing this, the Chinese satellite tracking vessel Yuan Wang 5 is yet to receive permission to dock at Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, and Beijing has warned India against pushing Colombo on that issue. In this chat on The Gist, Rear Adm. Sudarshan Shrikhande, former chief of naval intelligence, and Asiri Fernando, journalist and commentator in Colombo, gave a broad overview of the military implications of the Yuan Wang, and the diplomatic issues being sorted out. As Shrikhande notes, India’s concerns stem from the view that the ship is a sophisticated spying vessel that was in the Indian Ocean to track the first launch of the small satellite vehicle. The launch failed but by tracking its signals, the Yuan Wang would have got an idea of its capabilities. The ship’s presence in Hambantota is expected to put a wide swathe of eastern India’s coast under surveillance, not to mention efforts to monitor Indian submarine communications. Fernando underscores the point that the manner in which permission was given for the Yuan Wang to dock, in the waning days of the Gotabaya administration, is odd. The defence ministry was not consulted. He also acknowledged his country’s predicament, under pressure from China and India.

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