Sri Lanka Army chief urges enhanced military ties

March 4th, 2008 - 9:48 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bodh Gaya

New Delhi, Mar 4 (IANS) Sri Lanka Army chief Lt. Gen. Sanath Fonseka Tuesday obliquely urged India to supply arms to enable Colombo to effectively counter the Tamil Tigers. But it could be a while before this happens. “The relations between both countries are good at the political level but need to be increased at the military level. I am here to further strengthen the military ties,” Fonseka told reporters after inspecting a guard of honour at the South Block defence ministry headquarters.

However, to go by India’s stated policy on not supplying arms to conflict regions, Fonseka’s wish list is not likely to be addressed in the near future.

“Our policy is not to export arms to any country where there is a conflict. That is self-defeating because you cannot export arms to areas where there is peace,” Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh had said last month, even as he added he was not “advocating any change in policy”.

India has supplied three indigenously produced Indra radars to Sri Lanka. But India’s reluctance to supply lethal weapons has prompted Sri Lanka to look to China and Pakistan for desperately needed arms, a move New Delhi has looked at with askance.

At the same time, the Indian and Sri Lankan navies have been conducting coordinated patrols in the narrow sea dividing the two countries. New Delhi also shares intelligence on LTTE activities with Colombo.

On Tuesday, Fonseka, on a weeklong visit, laid a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti to the Unknown Soldier at India Gate before driving down to South Block, where he also met his Indian counterpart Gen. Deepak Kapoor.

On Wednesday, he is scheduled to call on Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, the Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, and the Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Home Major.

Fonseka will also visit the Infantry School at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh and meet its commandant, Lt. Gen. K.S. Yadav.

He will also see the Taj Mahal at Agra and visit the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Bodh Gaya in Bihar.

Fonseka Monday flew to Jammu and Kashmir for an operational briefing on the situation at the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the state between India and Pakistan.

Fonseka, who became the army chief in 2005, is one of Sri Lanka’s most protected figures, more so after the LTTE came close to assassinating him in April last year. He survived the attack but had to spend many months in hospital.

He has attended courses at the Indian Army’s Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Varingte in Mizoram and at the Commando School at Belgaum in Karnataka.

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