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Australia, India join hands to provide fuel to Sri Lankan armed forces

An Indian Coast Guard hovercraft along the maritime border with Sri Lanka to prevent illegal migrants from crossing over (Photo: ANI)

Australia has said that it will provide fuel to Sri Lanka’s navy and air force with support from India. With a financial and fuel crisis chasing Sri Lanka since late last year, not just the masses but even Lankan security forces are facing a fuel crunch.

The island nation entirely depends upon imported fuel for its domestic and military consumption.

The Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Paul Stephens tweeted: “Australia is pleased to be working with India to provide fuel to Sri Lanka’s navy and air force. It will help our long-standing cooperation against transnational crime to continue. As Indian Ocean neighbours, all three countries share a commitment to preserving regional security”.

Experts have criticised the Australian decision as they say Canberra wants to keep an eye on poor Sri Lankans who have been fleeing to Australia in boats. They have ascribed the Australian decision more to safeguard its own interests than one borne out of altruistic motives.

Anyhow, the Australian decision will allow Sri Lankan forces to keep an eye on the vital Indian Ocean region that handles a large volume of international trade. The region also faces severe maritime and security challenges in South Asia.

Last week India had gifted a Dornier aircraft to Sri Lanka.

An Indian statement said: “The aircraft would act as a force multiplier, enabling Sri Lanka to tackle multiple challenges such as human and drug trafficking, smuggling and other organised forms of crime in its coastal waters more effectively. Induction of the aircraft is timely in view of the current challenges to Sri Lanka’s maritime security”.

Sri Lankan newspaper Economy Next said: “Australia has been lending its hand to Sri Lanka as the Indian Ocean island undergoes its worst economic crisis since Independence. Australia recently provided Sri Lanka 75 million US dollars in food and medicine aid”.

Since the beginning of this year, Sri Lanka has been surviving on aid and lines of credit delivered by India to the tune of $4 billion. Fast friend China has spurred Colombo’s offer of grants, insisting that the financially-stricken nation take loans instead.

Sri Lanka has seen a mass uprising with the harassed people battling inflation of food and fuel as well as scarcity of essential commodities. Lines for fuels have lasted as long as three to four days because of the continuing shortage.

Also, a team of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is presently in Sri Lanka to deliver a bail out as Colombo defaulted on its external loans in April this year. The IMF will first assess the external and internal debt of the country before restructuring its liabilities.