The security of India and Sri Lanka is enhanced by mutual understanding, mutual trust and cooperation, the Indian envoy here said on Monday, as India gifted a Dornier aircraft to the Sri Lanka Navy to enhance its maritime surveillance capabilities and bolster the bilateral defence ties.
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe was present at the handover ceremony which took place on a day when India celebrated its 76th Independence Day and a day before a high-tech Chinese missile and satellite tracking ship docks at the island nation's Hambantota port.
Vice Chief of Indian Navy Vice Admiral S N Ghormade, who is on a two-day visit to the country, accompanied by Indian High Commissioner in Colombo Gopal Baglay, handed over the maritime surveillance aircraft to the Sri Lanka Navy at the Sri Lanka Air Force base in Katunayake, adjoining the Colombo international airport.
"Security of #India and #Srilanka is enhanced by mutual understanding, mutual trust and cooperation. Gifting of Dornier 228 is #India's latest contribution to this cause," High Commissioner Baglay said at the handing over event.
"Like fruits of other areas of cooperation with India, the gift of Dornier to @airforcelk is of relevance to and a step to meet its requirements for maritime safety and security. It is an example of India's strength adding to the strength of its friends," he said.
The aircraft is being provided to Sri Lanka from the inventory of the Indian Navy to help the country meet its immediate security requirement, sources in New Delhi said.
The Indian Navy has already provided extensive training to a team from Sri Lanka's Navy and the Air Force to operate the maritime surveillance aircraft.
"Sri Lanka has been a key partner of India and we will continue to expand our bilateral defence cooperation in the months and years to come," a senior official said in New Delhi on condition of anonymity.
Recalling the arrangement, Sri Lankan officials earlier said that during the Defence Dialogue between India and Sri Lanka held in January 2018 in New Delhi, Sri Lanka had sought the possibility of obtaining two Dornier Reconnaissance Aircraft from India to enhance the maritime surveillance capabilities of the island nation.
The sources in New Delhi said India will provide to Sri Lanka two Dornier aircraft which are being manufactured by state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Once these two HAL-manufactured aircraft are handed over, then the Dornier aircraft given on Monday will return to the Indian Navy.
The aircraft will be flown and maintained by 15 Sri Lanka Air Force crew who were specifically trained in India for four months.
The team consists of pilots, observers, engineering officers and technicians. They will be supervised by the government of India technical team attached to the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF).
The team would undertake comprehensive supervision of aircraft, airframe, aircraft support equipment, ground support equipment, and relevant documents and would ascertain the serviceability of all the assets, the SLAF said earlier on Monday.
The handing over of the Dornier aircraft by India comes a day before Chinese ship 'Yuan Wang 5' docs at the Southern port of Hambantota on Tuesday for a week for replenishment purposes.
The ship was originally scheduled to arrive at the port on August 11 but it was delayed in absence of permission by the Sri Lankan authorities.
Sri Lanka had asked China to defer the visit amid India's concerns over it. On Saturday, Colombo granted the port access to the vessel from August 16 to 22.
There were apprehensions in New Delhi about the possibility of the vessel's tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian defence installations while being on its way to the Sri Lankan port.
India on Friday rejected China's "insinuations" that New Delhi pressured Colombo against the visit by the vessel to the Sri Lankan port but at the same time asserted that it will take decisions based on its security concerns.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said Sri Lanka, as a sovereign country, makes its own independent decisions and noted that India would make its judgment on its security concerns based on the prevailing situation in the region.
Meanwhile, in his Independence Day message, High Commissioner Baglay said that India has been an active partner in catalyzing the economic recovery of Sri Lanka.
Indian investments in Sri Lanka in mutually beneficial sectors such as ports, renewable energy, infrastructure etc will be instrumental in this through employment generation and stepped up economic activities, he said.
The civilisational connect, shared heritage and abiding bonds between the people are the hallmark of India-Sri Lanka ties. Today, as we rapidly move forward on the path laid out by generations from antiquity, we also seek to strengthen these age-old linkages for posterity as well, he said.
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