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Indian Navy chief begins crucial Sri Lanka visit amid Chinese activism in Indian Ocean

Indian Navy Chief's Lanka visit comes at a crucial juncture as New Delhi remains concerned about the activity of Chinese spy ships in the Indian Ocean (All images courtesy: Indian Navy)

In a visit that amplifies India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy as well as the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) doctrine, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral R Hari Kumar will be in Sri Lanka starting Tuesday till December 16.

Besides having interaction with the senior political and defence leadership of the island nation in Colombo, the CNS will also be the chief guest and Reviewing Officer for the Commissioning Parade at the Naval and Maritime Academy (NMA) in Trincomalee on the northeastern coast on December 15.

The high-profile visit comes at a crucial juncture as New Delhi remains concerned about the activity of Chinese spy ships in the Indian Ocean, including Yuan Wang V which docked at the strategically-important Hambantota port in August.

Lankans have increasingly also started to blame Beijing for the economic crisis at home and even threatened to launch a ‘China go home’ campaign.

India, on the other hand, has lent unprecedented financial support to help the people of Sri Lanka in overcoming their economic hardships. This includes expeditiously finalizing and delivering assistance as well as support worth about US$ 4 billion in 2022 in the form of currency swaps, deferment of repayment of Sri Lanka’s liabilities to the Reserve Bank of India under the Asian Clearing Union mechanism, credit assistance of more than US$ 1.5 billion for fuel, food, medicines, fertilizers, and other essential commodities.

New Delhi also continues to support Colombo in the defence sphere as the two neighbours work together to enhance regional peace, security and stability.

Led by India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, the Colombo Security Conclave (CSC) – a grouping of the Indian Ocean countries in South Asia also dubbed by many as a ‘Quad minilateral’ – has emerged as a key security platform.

On August 15, India also gifted a Dornier Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft towards strengthening the maritime security of Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean Region at large.

Indian Navy
Ceremonial welcome for Dornier 228 aircraft gifted by India to the people of Sri Lanka in August

In Sri Lanka this week, Admiral Kumar would visit the defence establishments of the country’s armed forces and review the progress of various bilateral defence cooperation activities.

Before the departure of CNS to Colombo, the Indian Navy emphasised its close cooperation with the Sri Lanka Navy through the medium of annual Staff Talks and several operational engagements at a regular frequency.

The Indian Navy not only supports several capacity-building measures of the Sri Lanka Navy such as the provision of naval platforms, including indigenously constructed Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), but also remains actively engaged in various capability enhancement projects, including training of the Sri Lanka Navy personnel in India.

Lankan Navy personnel are regular participants in various multilateral engagements hosted by the Indian Navy, such as the MILAN, Goa Maritime Conclave, Admiral’s Cup Sailing Regatta, etc.

“The forthcoming visit would further enhance the long-standing bilateral defence cooperation with Sri Lanka, specifically in the maritime domain,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Monday.

Interestingly, the CNS lands in Sri Lanka a day after Chennai-Jaffna flight connectivity resumed Monday with an Alliance Air flight landing at the Jaffna International Airport rebuilt in the war-torn peninsula with Indian assistance.

Paving way for deeper interactions between the people of the two countries and promising economic prosperity, four flights will operate between Chennai and Jaffna every week.

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