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Diplomatic permission for vessels and aircraft: Updated SOP to diplomats this month

Diplomatic permission for vessels and aircraft: Updated SOP to diplomats this month

12 Nov 2023 | By Asiri Fernando

  • Cabinet nod given last week

An updated version of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to grant diplomatic permission for foreign warships, military aircraft, and research vessels has been approved by the Cabinet of Ministers last week, with the SOP expected to be provided to foreign missions in Colombo in the coming weeks, The Sunday Morning learns. 

When contacted, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry yesterday (11) confirmed that the updated version of the SOP had been approved by the Cabinet of Ministers last week (6).

“It was approved at the last Cabinet meeting. We will be communicating the SOP to all countries that were in touch with Sri Lanka regarding the procedure and the missions in Colombo. It should happen soon,” Sabry said, but would not divulge further information. 

It is understood that the updated SOP – its earlier version approved by the Cabinet in July – will include categories for foreign warships/submarines and state-owned vessels, military and state-owned aircraft, unmanned air/sea vehicles (UAV/USV), and marine scientific research vessels. 

Following concerns raised about the visit of Chinese research ships by India, the US, and other countries after the Yuan Wang 5’s visit last year, Sri Lanka has been under diplomatic pressure to avoid visits by Chinese research vessels, which some countries view as ‘spy ships’ or consider the data generated by such surveys to be ‘dual-purpose’ with military applications.

Post Yuan Wang 5 visit, Sri Lanka reviewed its SOPs. 

It is reliably learnt that the updated SOP was also discussed at the National Security Council recently in the wake of the two-day joint survey by the controversial Chinese geophysical and seismic scientific research vessel Shi Yan 6 for the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology (SCSIO) and the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) on 30 and 31 October. 

It is learnt that Sri Lanka had requested China to reschedule the visit from October to late November. However, the vessel was approved to enter the Port of Colombo and replenish on 25 October, with permission granted for a two-day joint SCSIO-NARA survey on 30 and 31 October.

The Sunday Morning earlier reported on NARA coming under strong criticism for its administration, research practices, and foreign linkages, some of which have caused diplomatic tensions for Sri Lanka. Ruhuna University, which also had a tie-up with SCSIO, stepped away from the controversial survey at the last minute.   

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