Sri Lanka’s Refusal of Chinese Research Vessel Sets Precedent for Maldives

Sri Lanka’s Refusal of Chinese Research Vessel Sets Precedent for Maldives

As a new Maldivian government led by President Muizzu pivots towards China, concerns are brewing in New Delhi over a Chinese research vessel reportedly heading towards the island nation. This development comes against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s recent decision to deny permission for similar Chinese vessels to dock in its ports, raising tensions in the Indian Ocean region.

Sri Lanka’s Stance:

In 2022, Sri Lanka refused permission for the Yuan Wang 5, a Chinese research vessel suspected of dual-use capabilities, to dock in its Hambantota port.

This decision followed pressure from India, its regional neighbor, which expressed concerns about potential military applications of the data gathered by such vessels.

Sri Lanka’s move was seen as a significant shift in its foreign policy, demonstrating its willingness to balance ties with both India and China while upholding its own security interests.
Maldives’ Shifting Landscape:

President Muizzu’s ascent to power marked a change in Maldives’ traditionally close ties with India.

His ‘India Out’ campaign and subsequent request for Indian troops to withdraw highlighted a growing preference for Chinese engagement.

The arrival of the Chinese research vessel further underscores this shift in Maldives’ foreign policy, potentially causing ripples of concern in New Delhi.\

India’s Perspective:

India has consistently expressed concerns about the presence of Chinese research vessels in its vicinity, viewing them as potential security threats.

New Delhi argues that the data collected by these vessels could be used for military purposes, such as submarine deployment, posing a challenge to the regional balance of power.

Sri Lanka’s previous refusal sets a precedent for Maldives, and India will likely closely monitor the situation, assessing its implications for regional security dynamics.

Uncertainties Ahead:

The Maldivian government’s official stance on the Chinese research vessel remains unclear.

It is still unknown whether the vessel will be allowed to dock in Male or conduct its planned ocean survey operation.
India’s response to this development is also yet to be determined, adding to the uncertainty surrounding the situation.
The situation in the Maldives highlights the complex power dynamics at play in the Indian Ocean region. With Sri Lanka setting a precedent for refusing Chinese research vessels, it remains to be seen how the Maldives will navigate its diplomatic tightrope walk between India and China while ensuring its own security and sovereignty.

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