Sri Lanka’s top official Milinda Moragoda on Monday said that “China is a very close friend. But India is our brother and sister”, quoting former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The envoy’s comments came amid a row over the docking of the Chinese research ship at the island’s southern port at Hambantota last month.
The envoy defended Lanka’s decision Monday despite India’s intermittent objections. He said the decision to allow the docking of the Chinese ship ‘Yuan Wang 5’ was taken at the level of “officials” in the chaotic time when former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa was leaving the country.
“I think the lesson we have learnt is that we need to have very close cooperation and coordination with India and we also need to have a framework of cooperation and we are discussing that,” Moragoda said. He said India was the anchor for security in the region.
The Chinese ship issue
The Chinese ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship was berthed at the Chinese-run Hambantota port from August 16 till August 22.
On August 13, the Sri Lankan Government granted port access to the vessel from August 16 to 22 on the condition that it will keep the Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched on within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the country and no scientific research would be conducted in its waters.
India flagged the ship’s technical capability and expressed worries about the purpose of its visit.
New Delhi was concerned about the possibility of the ship’s tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian installations.
Moragoda thanked India for standing by Sri Lanka in times of crisis and hoped that it will play a crucial role in the economic revival of the island nation.