BY SUSITHA FERNANDO
Colombo– Sri Lanka has denied the construction of a China-assisted remote satellite receiving ground station in the southern part of the island nation, reports of which led to concerns in India regarding its security.
Sri Lankan Cabinet spokesman Bandula Gunawardena on Tuesday denied setting up the radar base near Dondra Bay in the island’s southern most-tip.
Media reports had indicated that the so-called construction which alleged to have planned along with a military facility on Coco Island in Myanmar had raised concerns in India of possible surveillance across the region.
The reports had also warned that China would be able to monitor Kudankulam and Kalpakkam nuclear power plants, India’s strategic assets in the south, track movement of Indian Navy vessels travelling to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the activities of the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean Region and US military activities in Diego Garcia.
“We haven’t received any information about such a report,” Gunawardena said when questioned by journalists.
The media reports stated that China had proposed setting up a remote satellite receiving ground station system through a collaborative effort between the Aerospace Information Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and state-run University of Ruhuna in southern Sri Lanka.
The reports also had warned that given its strategic location, proposed project could be used to spy on Indian assets and intercept sensitive information and also across the region.
When contacted by IANS, Professor Disna Ratnasekera, Co-Director of China-Sri Lanka Joint Centre for Education and Research (CSL-CER) at the University of Ruhuna, also denied having any project relating to radar systems.
“We have not aware about any such project. Besides the university doesn’t have any properties in the area mentioned in the media reports,” Prof. Ratnasekera said.
“This is a university involves in academic and research activities and as an academic institution we would not involve in anything that would harm or damage any other country. We are not aware about any radar project,” she told IANS, adding that there were some collaborations and joint-ventures related to academic and research with China.
“These are relating to oceanology, biodiversity, climate change and water related studies with the participation of academics from both China and Sri Lanka,” she added.
Last year, India raised a security concern when Chinese surveillance vessel Yuan Wang 5 docked at the Hambantota Port.
Following India’s warning last August, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry asked China to defer the ship’s port call but later gave permission to dock on the condition it would not carry out research activities while in Sri Lankan waters.
Built with Chinese loan, in December 2017 Sri Lanka had to handover the Hambantota port on a 99-year lease to China unable to repay its debt. (IANS)