COLOMBO: A Chinese Navy warship capable of surveillance has docked at the Colombo port, nearly a year after another spy vessel berthed at a strategic port in the country and raised concerns in India. The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy warship HAI YANG 24 HAO arrived at the port of Colombo on Thursday, the Sri Lankan Navy said. The vessel is to leave on Saturday.

"The 129 metre-long ship which arrived in Colombo is manned by a crew of 138 and it is commanded by Commander Jin Xin. The ship is scheduled to depart the country tomorrow," the Navy statement said.

According to media reports on Friday, Sri Lanka delayed its arrival upon concerns raised by India.

"The Chinese authorities sought permission for it earlier, but Sri Lanka delayed permission because of resistance from India," the Daily Mirror newspaper reported.

Despite a briefing by Sri Lanka to Indian officials, the latter remained concerned about the research ship's visit to the island nation.

In August last year, a similar visit by the Chinese ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship, 'Yuan Wang 5', which arrived in the southern Sri Lankan port of Hambantota elicited strong reactions from India. There were apprehensions in New Delhi about the possibility of the vessel's tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian defence installations while being on its way to the Sri Lankan port. However, after a considerable delay, Sri Lanka allowed the ship to dock at the strategic southern port of Hambantota, being built by a Chinese company.

Sri Lanka considers both India and China equally important partners in its task to restructure its external debt.

The negotiations for Sri Lanka's external and domestic debt restructuring must be concluded by September, in time for the International Monetary Fund's review of its USD 2.9 billion bailout extended in March this year.

The island nation was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves.