Hai Yang 24 Hao: Chinese Warship's Colombo Visit Raises Diplomatic Queries
Written By: Gilbert W. Noel
Published On: Aug 4,2023
The recent visit of the Chinese research
vessel Hai Yang 24 Hao to the port of Colombo in Sri Lanka has raised numerous diplomatic
queries and stirred conversations about China's expanding maritime interests in the Indian Ocean
region. The voyage of this warship is not merely a routine scientific expedition but rather part
of China's broader strategy to assert its presence and influence in the strategically
significant waters of the Indian Ocean. This essay delves into
the significance of the Hai Yang 24 Hao's visit, the diplomatic queries it has raised, and the
implications for regional geopolitics.
The Significance of the Hai Yang 24 Hao's Visit
The Hai Yang 24 Hao is a Chinese
research vessel that is part of the China Ocean Mineral Resources R&D Association (COMRA),
an organization tasked with exploring and exploiting the ocean's resources. However, its visit
to Colombo raises eyebrows due to the vessel's dual-use capability. While it is indeed equipped
for marine research, it is also equipped with advanced sonar systems and mapping technology,
making it suitable for military purposes, including submarine tracking and underwater data
The significance of this visit lies in
its timing and location. Colombo is strategically located in the Indian Ocean, making it an
essential port for China's maritime ambitions. The visit can be seen as part of China's larger
"String of Pearls" strategy, which involves developing a network of ports and military
facilities in the Indian Ocean region to secure its maritime trade routes and expand its
Diplomatic Queries Raised
Sri Lanka's Balancing Act: Sri Lanka finds itself in a delicate balancing act between its
historical ties with India and its growing economic and strategic partnership with China.
The visit of the Hai Yang 24 Hao highlights the challenge Sri Lanka faces in maintaining
this balance. While Sri Lanka seeks Chinese investments and infrastructure projects, it also
doesn't want to antagonize India, its closest neighbor and a regional power.
India views the presence of Chinese naval vessels in the Indian Ocean with suspicion. New
Delhi is particularly concerned about China's naval capabilities and its potential to
monitor and disrupt maritime traffic in the region. The Hai Yang 24 Hao's visit is seen as
part of China's broader naval expansion in the Indian Ocean, which India perceives as a
direct challenge to its influence.
U.S. Involvement: The
United States, along with other Western countries, has been monitoring China's maritime
activities closely. The Hai Yang 24 Hao's visit has raised questions about whether the U.S.
will take a more active role in the Indian Ocean to counter China's growing presence. This
could potentially lead to a heightened level of competition and tension in the
The visit also underscores the complex web of regional alliances and partnerships in the
Indian Ocean. Countries like Japan and Australia, concerned about China's rise, are looking
to bolster their security ties with nations in the Indian Ocean region. This could lead to
the formation of new security arrangements and alliances, further complicating the
geopolitics of the region.
Implications for Regional Geopolitics
The Hai Yang 24 Hao's visit highlights the growing importance of maritime security in the
Indian Ocean. As China expands its naval presence, other countries in the region will likely
respond by enhancing their naval capabilities and security cooperation. This could lead to
increased naval exercises, surveillance activities, and potentially even conflicts at
Economic Influence: China's economic influence in Sri Lanka and other Indian Ocean
countries is growing through massive infrastructure projects like the Hambantota Port. The
Hai Yang 24 Hao's visit is a reminder that these economic ties also have strategic
implications, as Chinese investments can be leveraged for military purposes in the
Regional Power Dynamics: The Indian Ocean has become a theater for great power
competition, with China, India, the United States, and other major players vying for
influence. The Hai Yang 24 Hao's visit reinforces the idea that the Indian Ocean is no
longer a secondary theater but a central arena in global geopolitics.
The visit of the Chinese research vessel
Hai Yang 24 Hao to Colombo has raised significant diplomatic queries and underscores China's
expanding maritime interests in the Indian Ocean. It highlights the complex geopolitical
dynamics at play in the region, with countries like Sri Lanka, India, the United States, and
others carefully navigating their relationships with China to protect their interests. As the
Indian Ocean becomes a focal point of global competition, the diplomatic queries raised by this
visit are likely to persist and intensify in the coming years, making the region a critical area
to watch in the evolving landscape of international relations.
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