Days after Vietnam PM Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to India, a Chinese sub, Changzheng 2, has again docked at the Colombo port, sparking “enormous concerns” within the government about the intentions of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
As reported by Sunday TOI, Sri Lanka allowed the docking despite NSA Ajit Doval’s warning to Lankan defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa that any presence of a Chinese submarine in Sri Lanka would be unacceptable to India. The government is now left with no option but to look upon Lanka’s defiance as “inimical” to India’s interests.
India, however, sees this as a violation of the July 1987 agreement which says that “Trincomalee or any other ports in Sri Lanka will not be made available for military use by any country in a manner prejudicial to India’s interests”. The agreement also calls upon the two countries to not allow their respective territories to be used for “activities prejudicial to each other’s unity, integrity and security.”
Changzheng 2, along with warship Chang Xing Dao, is likely to remain in Colombo until Wednesday. While this is only the second time a Chinese sub has stopped off Colombo (the first coincided with President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Vietnam in September), Xinhua on Monday quoted some Chinese officials who said that the docking was “an international common practice”.
Strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney described Sri Lanka’s disregard of India’s protests after the first docking as a hostile action with long-term implications. “At a time when India is facing increasing Chinese strategic pressure from the north, a new military challenge is opening up from the south. The weakening of India’s strategic clout over the past decade has emboldened President Rajapaksa’s hostile action in granting access to Chinese subs,” he said. (Times of India)