Digital Desk, New Delhi. The Indian Navy has sent a training fleet to Sri Lanka, as the two South Asian neighbors try to revive their military ties, which peaked in the late eighties. The move comes as a follow-up to intense diplomatic and defense activities between the two countries over the past month, covering all levels of bilateral ties such as tourism, defence, trade, economic development and diplomacy.
Last week, a Sri Lankan delegation led by Sri Lankan Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga and Minister of State D.V. Chanaka visited India with 125 Buddhist monks for the inauguration of Kushinagar International Airport by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Its aim is to promote religious tourism and encourage people-to-people connectivity between the two countries.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had also assured Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla about his country’s commitment to India. He had assured New Delhi of the growing influence of China in Sri Lanka. Colombo has opened its ports for investment to Indian companies and has given the Adani Group the responsibility of developing the Waste Container Terminal at Colombo Port.
Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane also visited Sri Lanka earlier this month to reinforce New Delhi’s commitment to Colombo as a priority partner in defense ties. The Indian High Commission in Colombo earlier this year had listed the southern neighbor as its first priority partner in the defense sector.
Besides the two navies interacting with each other, the Indian and Sri Lankan armies have also recently conducted a 12-day military exercise. Apart from discussing the security situation in the region, the Indian Army is also building the capacity of the Sri Lankan Army personnel. In the latest sign of growing defense ties, the Indian Navy is training Sri Lankan Navy personnel with the assistance of the Indian Coast Guard. Indian Naval Ships – Sujatha, Magar, Shardul, Sudarshini and Tarangini along with Coast Guard Ship Vikram have arrived in Sri Lanka for the Integrated Officer Training Course from October 24 to 28.
According to a Defense Ministry statement, the deployment will broaden the horizons of young officers and officer-trainees by highlighting the socio-political and maritime aspects of various countries in the Indian Ocean region. The statement also said that this deployment will assist the trainees in the operation of IN warships at sea as well as promote friendship with foreign nations.
Both the navies will also conduct a two-day naval exercise. According to the Sri Lankan Navy, Shardul and Magar have reached Colombo port, while Sujatha, Sudarshini, Tarangini and Vikram have left for Trincomalee port. Various training activities have been planned between the two navies with a view to enhance the interoperability of both the armies. The Indian Navy has been training international trainees for more than four decades. Presently, a large number of officers and sailors from Sri Lanka are undergoing courses from beginner to advanced level at Southern Naval Command (SNC).
The ships are part of the SNC-Indian Navy’s Training Command, which is headed by Vice Admiral A.K. Of. Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, SNC. The 1st Training Squadron based at Kochi is currently manned by Captain Aftab Ahmed Khan, a senior officer of the 1st Training Squadron. There was excellent defense and military cooperation between India and Sri Lanka during the eighties. New Delhi sent the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), also known as the Indian Peace Keeping Force, to Sri Lanka to support the country in its fight against extremism.