04/11/2023, 16.56
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China plans to build a radar base in Sri Lanka to monitor India and the Indian Ocean

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

The goal is to track and monitor the Indian Navy and Indian military and strategic assets in the region, as well as UK-US installations on Diego Garcia. Sri Lanka is under pressure from China over its debts. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received a situation report from Indian naval intelligence.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – China is planning to set up a radar base in the jungle near Dondra Bay, about 155 kilometres southeast of the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.

The facility will be able to monitor India's assets in the Indian Ocean, including its Navy, and its strategic installations in the southern and eastern parts of South Asia, like the Kudankulam and Kalpakkam nuclear power plants and their refuelling activities.

Some observers believe Dondra Bay's radar station could track the movements of Indian warships en route to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

A Chinese radar base in Sri Lanka will also be able to monitor US and UK military assets on Diego Garcia, a British Indian Ocean Territory.

Prasad Senanayake, an analyst at a Colombo-based think tank, told AsiaNews that "people familiar with the Chinese proposal are of the opinion that the powerful radar installations, if built, could threaten India's military installations.”

Scholar Dhanushka Kahawita explains that "Sri Lanka is sceptical about Chinese activities in the region, but is vulnerable due to its accumulated debt to Beijing.” Unable to repay its debts, it granted China a controlling equity stake and a 99-year lease for Hambantota port, in December 2017.

According to Sri Lankan experts Mayantha Siriwardana and Sudeshi Gamlath, “during the debt restructuring deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China demanded a radar station, like the one in Argentina, in 2012.”

In exchange for economic aid, Argentina leased land to China to a build space in Patagonia station that includes satellite and radar facilities.

In Sri Lanka, “With the help of its radar, China will be able to spy on the Indian space station in Sriharikota (Andra Pradesh), the missile testing range in Chandipur (Odisha) and several other Indian military bases,” Siriwardana and Gagliath point out, "as well as monitor its satellites in space.”

In August, the Chinese surveillance vessel Yuan Wang 5 docked for six days at the port of Hambantota for logistical and supply operations, this despite Indian warnings to Sri Lanka. Since then, India has increased its monitoring of Chinese movements in the region.

Several academics note that India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh submitted a 12-page secret report to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi drafted by the Indian naval intelligence about China's attempt to set up a radar base in Sri Lanka.

According to the document, China is working on a deal with Sri Lanka to lease Dondra Bay for 99 years, as it did for the Port of Hambantota.

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