Yuan Wang 5: Spy ship at Hambantota when satellite surveillance is norms


Photo Credit Twitter @InsightGL

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, August 16: The Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang 5 finally docked at Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka on Tuesday despite sharp Indian reservations, while there may not be the need to press the panic button yet.

Sri Lanka straddles one of the busiest seat trade routes, with Chinese investment in the Hambantota Port along with similar assets in Pakistan and African continent allows Beijing unprecedented strategic depth.

Former Major General SB Asthana argued that the docking of the Chinese ship was a fait accompli.

“Until Chinese debt is restructured, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will not begin discussing the bailout package for Sri Lanka,” Maj Gen (Retd) Asthana told The Raisina Hills.

The spy ship is stated to be from the stable of the People’s Liberation Army, and it is also claimed that it has capacity of surveillance of 750 kms.

But not much is known of the exact capability of the ship, added Maj Gen (Retd) Asthana.

The strategic affairs veteran, however, is of the opinion that the popular outcry in India may be overstretched.

“What is there on the western coast (of India) that cannot be seen by satellites,” stated Maj Gen (Retd) Asthana.

Indeed, surveillance in the last few decades has seen a sharp tilt towards satellites and even India is known to have heavily invested by deploying ‘eyes in the sky’ in the low-orbit.

But it’s also important that the Indian Ocean doesn’t become a backyard for the Chinese military ships.

“The noise is important, for we don’t want this (Yuan Wang 5 docking at Hambantota Port) becoming a routine affair,” added Maj Gen (Retd) Asthana.

It’s worthwhile to recall that the Chinese nuclear-powered submarines had reached closer to Tamil Nadu after they were allowed by Sri Lanka in 2014 to come to their waters.

Maj Gen (Retd) Asthana also argued that India too can monitor the Chinese ship and gather intelligence about it.

But he also flagged that half the people at defence and key strategic installations which are stated to be at risk of surveillance by Yuan Wang 5 may be using the Chinese mobile phones, and critical data must have already been compromised.

While the world is in an era of Google maps which allow finer details of buildings seen from remote locations, India would still be wary of China exploiting the vulnerabilities of Sri Lanka, which has already financially gone bust after having defaulted on the foreign debt servicing.

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