India will further step-up defence cooperation with Sri Lanka and Maldives, including assistance in “capacity-building” of their armed forces through both training and supply of equipment, in tune with the overall policy to steadily boost military ties with countries in Indian Ocean to counter China’s strategic inroads in the region.
Defence minister Arun Jaitley on Monday held a meeting with visiting Sri Lankan defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakshe, the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to discuss ways to expand the bilateral military relationship. On Tuesday, Jaitley will hold similar discussions with Maldivian defence and national security minister Mohamed Nazim, who is on a three-day trip to India.
Incidentally, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha is also scheduled to leave for Japan on Tuesday, where he will also call on PM Shinzo Abe and defence minister Akinori Eto, soon after PM Narendra Modi visited the country in his first bilateral visit outside the sub-continent. Both India and Japan are wary of China’s increasingly assertive behaviour in the Asia-Pacific region.
As for Sri Lanka, India is going to supply two naval offshore patrol vessels and other military equipment to the island nation. India has earlier provided 24 L-70 guns, 24 battle-field surveillance radars, 11 USFM radars, four Indra-II radars and 10 mine-protected vehicles, among other things, to the Sri Lankan forces. Moreover, around 800 to 900 Sri Lankan military personnel are trained in Indian military establishments every year.
Similarly, India is supplying Dhruv advanced light helicopters (ALH) and other hardware to Maldives, apart from regularly sending its warships and Dornier reconnaissance aircraft to the archipelago to undertake maritime patrols and surveillance operations.
China in recent years has forged extensive links with both Sri Lanka and Maldives, which have expressed enthusiasm for its Maritime Silk Route construct, as well as other IOR countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles.
As reported by TOI earlier, a Chinese Type 039 “Song-class” submarine had openly docked at the Colombo International Container Terminal, which has been funded by China, from September 7 to 14 just ahead of Chinese President Xi Jingping’s visit to Sri Lanka. The Chinese navy is rapidly growing into a potent “blue-water” force capable of long-range deployments, which is a marked change from being a force that mainly operated close to its own shores. ( Times Of India)