Beijing’s nuclear subs coming again, India concernedView(s):
Any warship can come to Sri Lankan ports with Defence Ministry permission and the Chinese nuclear submarine that docked at the Colombo Port last month will pass through again on its return journey, a senior official said.
The Changzheng 2, a type 091 Han-class nuclear-powered submarine, docked at the Colombo International Container Terminals Ltd (CICT) on September 15. It was the first such submarine to visit Sri Lanka. Before its arrival, two Chinese naval vessels had docked in Colombo from September 7 to 13.
This move, alongside Chinese companies increasing their foothold in Sri Lanka’s ports sector, has caused concern in India. The Times of India wrote that the docking of the submarine on a long-range deployment patrol was yet another indicator of the ever-increasing forays of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy into the Indian Ocean Region.
The Chinese Ministry of National Defence clarified that the submarine had been on an anti-piracy escort mission to the Gulf of Aden.
Such port calls are a common practice of the navies, spokesman Geng Yansheng was quoted as saying at a regular media briefing.
“Any warship with permission can come to Sri Lankan ports,” said Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman Priyath B Wickrama. “Many ships have come. American ships have come. Nobody is worried about those ships.”
Dr. Wickrama said he could not remember whether any other submarines had ever docked in Sri Lanka. He said the Chinese vessel was on its way somewhere and had called at Colombo to avail itself of the facilities. However, unlike other military ships which are mandated to dock at SLPA berths, the submarine had used the Chinese-run CICT terminal in violation of protocol. Dr. Wickrama said this was because only the CICT berth had the required depth.
“We usually do not allow it,” he said. “All military ships should come to our facilities and they do but the submarine needs depth. Our depths are maximum 14.7 metres. Theirs (CICT) is 18 metres. However, we are doing another berth and after that we can accommodate them. Anyhow, we give priority to container ships because those (military) ships generate only parking revenue.”
Dr. Wickrama also clarified that no country was permitted to keep its military vessels in Sri Lankan ports. “They can come, get facilities and go,” he said. “The submarine was here only for about two days. They came and left. They are coming again, and leaving. They have got the permission.”