In news– India is closely monitoring the movement of a Chinese ‘Yuan Wang 5’ “spy ship” that is on its way to Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port.
About the ship-
- Yuan Wang 5 is a dual-use spy, research and survey vessel, employed for space and satellite tracking and with specific usage in intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
- This vessel is in control of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) under its Strategic Support Force(SSF) unit. The SSF focuses on space, cyber, and electronic warfare.
- It is a third-generation tracking ship of the Yuan Wang Series, which came into service on September 29, 2007, built at China’s Jiangnan Shipyard & was designed by China’s 708 Research Institute.
- It is a highly sophisticated missile range instrumentation ship with top-of-the-line antennas and electronic equipment to support the launching and tracking of missiles and rockets.
- They are used by the navies of China, France, India, Russia, and the United States, mainly for military purposes.
- China has around seven of these tracking ships that are capable of operating throughout the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans. The ships supplement Beijing’s land-based tracking stations.
- This 222-metre long and 25.2-metre wide vessel has state-of-the-art tracking technology onboard for transoceanic aerospace observation.
- Its last monitoring mission was the launch of China’s ‘Long March 5B’ rocket. It was also recently involved in maritime monitoring of the launch of China’s Tiangong space station’s first lab module.
- According to the Belt & Road Initiative Sri Lanka (BRISL), ‘Yuan Wang 5’ will enter Hambantota port on August 11 for a week and will likely leave on August 17 after replenishment.
Why is India concerned about this development?
The ‘Yuan Wang 5’ is a powerful tracking vessel whose significant aerial reach — reportedly around 750 km — means that several ports in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh could be on China’s radar. Reports have claimed that several vital installations in South India could be under threat of being snooped upon.
- The second-largest Lankan port, Hambantota sits on the route connecting Southeast Asia with Africa and West Asia.
- For China, it is an important stop in its Belt and Road Initiative.
- Its development was largely funded by China, and in 2017, Colombo handed over its majority stake to a Chinese firm after failing to repay the burgeoning debt.
- India and the US have repeatedly flagged concerns that Chinese control of this port could harm their interests in the Indian Ocean by becoming a hub for the PLA Navy.
- Hambantota’s proximity to India has the potential of allowing the Chinese navy just the maritime flex aimed at India that it has been seeking for long.
Further reading: https://journalsofindia.com/hambantota-port/