New Delhi, Oct 26: The Indian Navy has despatched a training flotilla to Sri Lanka as two South Asian neighbours rediscover their military relationship that had peaked in the late eighties.
This follows intense diplomatic and defence activity between the two nations over the past one month encompassing all levels of bilateral relations-tourism, defence, business, economic development and diplomacy.
Just last week, a Sri Lankan delegation led by Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga and State Minister DV Chanaka accompanied by 125 Buddhist monks visited India for the inauguration of the Kushinagar international airport by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The aim-to promote religious tourism and encourage people-to-people connect between the two nations.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also assured Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla about his nation’s commitment towards India. To assure New Delhi over China’s increasing footprint in the island nation. Colombo has opened up its ports for investment to Indian companies and given the development of the West Container Terminal to the Adani Group at the Colombo Port.
Indian Army chief General MM Naravane also undertook a visit to Sri Lanka earlier this month to reinforce New Delhi’s commitment to Colombo as “Priority One” partner in defence relations. The Indian High Commission in Colombo had accorded the southern neighbour its “Priority One” partner in the defence sphere earlier this year.
Besides the two navies interacting with each other, the Indian and Sri Lankan armies too held a 12-day military exercise recently. The Indian Army is also building the capacities of Sri Lankan army personnel besides holding discussions on the security situation in the region.
In the latest sign of burgeoning defence relations, the Indian Navy, aided by the Indian Coast Guard, is training Sri Lankan Navy personnel. Indian Navy ships–Sujata, Magar, Shardul, Sudarshini and Tarangini, accompanied by the coast guard Ship Vikram arrived in Sri Lanka for the Integrated Officers Training Course from October 24 – 28.
According to a statement by the Ministry of Defence: “the deployment will broaden the horizons of young officers and officer-trainees by exposing them to the socio-political and maritime facets of different countries in the Indian Ocean Region. The deployment will also expose the trainees onboard towards the conduct of IN warships in various evolutions at sea, port familiarisation and above all, foster the bridges of friendship with foreign nations”.
The two navies will also hold a two-day naval drill. According to the Sri Lankan navy, Shardul and Magar arrived at the Colombo harbour, while Sujata, Sudarshini, Tarangini and Vikram sailed to the port of Trincomalee. Various training activities are planned between the two navies with a view to enhancing the interoperability of the two forces.
A statement by the Ministry of Defence says: “The overseas deployment will help in developing the skills of seamanship and ship-handling besides nurturing a spirit of adventure among the officers. It also inculcates a deep understanding of, and respect for, the elements within the maritime environment. The entire crew of all the visiting ships are doubly vaccinated and have also been tested for COVID-19”.
The Indian Navy has been imparting training to international trainees for more than four decades now. Currently, a large number of officers and sailors from Sri Lanka are undergoing courses ranging from the beginners to advanced, at the Southern Naval Command (SNC).
The ships are the part of the SNC-the Training Command of the Indian Navy, headed by Vice Admiral AK Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, SNC while the 1st Training Squadron based at Kochi is currently helmed by Captain Aftab Ahmed Khan, Senior Officer First Training Squadron, who also dons the dual hat of Commanding Officer, INS Tir.
India and Sri Lanka had excellent defence and military cooperation during the eighties. New Delhi had sent the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka to support the country in its battle against extremism.
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