As the controversy over a military vessel escalates, India accuses China of "militarising the Taiwan Strait."

Date: 2022-08-29
In an increasing battle of words sparked by a Chinese military ship landing in a contentious Sri Lankan port, India has accused China of "militarization of the Taiwan Strait." The claim, which was included in a statement issued by the Indian high commission in Sri Lanka on Sunday, is allegedly the first time the Indian government has used the description, and it is an uncommon involvement on cross-strait matters as India deals with tensions on its own border with China.
A Chinese military research vessel docked in Sri Lanka's Hambantota port earlier this month for a week. According to analysts, the Yuan Wang 5 is one of several Chinese ships controlled by the People's Liberation Army that monitor satellite, rocket, and intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
The landing of the Yuan Wang 5 was postponed for many days when India objected, citing concerns that Beijing may exploit the port as a military base. According to China's foreign ministry, the vessel was conducting marine research in accordance with international law and practise and would not jeopardise "any country's security or economic interests."

The Yuan Wang 5 left a week ago, but China's embassy in Sri Lanka accused India over the weekend of engaging in "de facto complete interference in Sri Lanka's sovereignty and independence."
On Saturday, India's high commission in Colombo stated that Sri Lanka "needs assistance, not unwelcome pressure or unneeded controversies to suit the agenda of another nation." It also mentioned "debt-driven objectives," presumably referring to the Chinese-funded Hambantota port, which is frequently linked to charges of Chinese debt-trap diplomacy.
Sri Lanka is presently navigating its way out of its biggest economic crisis in history, while balancing the opposing interests of India and China, both of which observers believe it requires. Chinese loans account for around 10% of the country's overall foreign debt. However, beginning this year, India has also lent nearly $3.8 billion to assist Sri Lanka in overcoming its economic problems.Wen-ti Sung, an Australian National University political scientist who specialises in Taiwan and China, said Delhi was developing "new negotiating tools" by normalising "tougher rhetoric" that it may offer to stop in future discussions.

"Knowing that China does not want escalation on multiple fronts, India is attempting to create new leverage where none previously existed, by calling China out on Taiwan," Sung said, noting China's domestic pressures with the upcoming 20th party congress, when President Xi Jinping will seek re-election for a third term.
The ship arrived in Hambantota exactly a week after China concluded large-scale military manoeuvres surrounding Taiwan in reaction to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit. Since those drills, China's military has intensified its operations, which observers have labelled a dangerous "new normal." The media line, an unofficial boundary separating the Taiwan Strait that China has lately claimed as sovereign waters, is now nearly daily crossed.

When the US and other allies condemned the drills, India's administration issued ambiguous remarks, stating it was "concerned about recent events."

"We call for prudence, the avoidance of unilateral moves to disrupt the status quo, the de-escalation of tensions, and efforts to maintain peace and stability."in the area," according to an external relations spokeswoman.

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