‘Force multiplier’: India gifts maritime reconnaissance aircraft to Sri Lanka

Updated on Aug 15, 2022 09:35 PM IST

India’s public show of support for strengthening Sri Lanka’s maritime security came a day ahead of the scheduled arrival of the Yuan Wang 5, used by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to track satellites and ballistic missiles

Indian envoy in Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay with Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Navy personnel during a ceremony for the handover of a Dornier 228 Maritime Patrol Aircraft to Sri Lanka to enhance their maritime surveillance capabilities and bolster the bilateral defence ties, in Colombo (Twitter/IndiainSL)
Indian envoy in Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay with Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Navy personnel during a ceremony for the handover of a Dornier 228 Maritime Patrol Aircraft to Sri Lanka to enhance their maritime surveillance capabilities and bolster the bilateral defence ties, in Colombo (Twitter/IndiainSL)

NEW DELHI: India on Monday gifted a Dornier reconnaissance aircraft to Sri Lanka to bolster the island nation’s capability to tackle drug trafficking and maritime security challenges, the move coming a day ahead of a controversial visit by a Chinese research vessel.

The aircraft was handed over during a special event held at the Sri Lankan Air Force base at Katunayake. Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Indian Navy’s vice chief, Vice Admiral SN Ghormade, Indian envoy Gopal Baglay and the heads of the three services of Sri Lanka attended the event. The event coincided with the celebration of India’s 75th anniversary of independence.

The public show of support for strengthening Sri Lanka’s maritime security came a day ahead of the scheduled arrival of the Yuan Wang 5, used by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to track satellites and ballistic missiles, at Hambantota Port. The Sri Lankan side gave in to pressure from China and cleared the entry of the vessel after calling on the Chinese side to defer the ship’s visit on August 5.

Water jets welcome the first Dornier 228 maritime surveillance aircraft of the Sri Lankan Air Force base in Katunayake just north of the capital Colombo. (Sri Lanka President’s office/Afp)
Water jets welcome the first Dornier 228 maritime surveillance aircraft of the Sri Lankan Air Force base in Katunayake just north of the capital Colombo. (Sri Lanka President’s office/Afp)

India and the US opposed the visit of the Yuan Wang 5 to Hambantota port, which is controlled by the Chinese, because of concerns about the ship’s surveillance capabilities. On Friday, India rejected China’s insinuations that New Delhi pressured Colombo to block the Chinese vessel’s visit.

The external affairs ministry said in a statement that Sri Lankan naval and air force personnel, who were trained in India for close to four months, will operate the Dornier aircraft. They will also receive operational support from their Indian counterparts.

“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,” the statement said.

The aircraft’s capability to undertake search and rescue operations exemplifies its direct benefit to the Sri Lankan people, and the gift “will equip the country to contribute more towards the security of the Indian Ocean Region at large”, it added.

Maritime security has been identified as a key pillar of the Colombo Security Conclave, a group that includes India, the Maldives, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, with Bangladesh and Seychelles as observer nations.

Speaking on the occasion, Indian high commissioner Gopal Baglay emphasised that the aircraft’s induction will “help in creating a peaceful environment for progress and prosperity of the people of India and Sri Lanka”.

The gifting of the Dornier aircraft also underscores the cooperation between India and Sri Lanka in the defence and security spheres, the external affairs ministry said. This cooperation is envisaged to add further capability and capacity to Sri Lanka and is in line with India’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).

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