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IAF choppers to guard PM in Colombo

Armed helicopters of the IAF, bullet-proof vehicles and highly-trained security personnel would accompany PM for the 5th SAARC summit in August, reports S Patranobis.
Hindustan Times | By Sutirtho Patranobis, Colombo
UPDATED ON JUL 01, 2008 12:49 AM IST

Armed helicopters of the Indian Air Force, bullet-proof vehicles and members of the highly-trained special protection group (SPG) would accompany Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he reaches Colombo for the 15th SAARC summit in August.

Confirming this, chief of the Sri Lankan armed forces Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka said on Monday that Indian helicopters would be deployed during the meeting of the heads of states on August 2 and 3, the last two days of the summit. “Few of the Indian helicopters will come (to Colombo) to assist the air force (Sri Lankan) to provide protection during the summit. No chances can be taken,” Fonseka said.

The weeklong event begins on July 27. It was further learnt that bullet-proof vehicles would be flown in from India for the Prime Minister during his stay in Colombo. Fonseka, who was interacting with Colombo-based foreign correspondents on Monday, added that the Indian PM will bring his own security as per protocol.

Unconfirmed media reports added that the Indian Navy would have presence in Sri Lankan waters to avert any LTTE attack from the sea. And that India would position radars in Colombo to thwart any air attack.

“We know what the threat is. We are ready to face the threat,” Fonseka said referring to the possible attempts by the LTTE to jeopardise the summit. He added that there would be no shortage of troops during the summit and a large number of personnel from the army, air force and navy would be deployed to throw several layers of protection around the heads of states and delegates.

Answering a question about Sri Lanka purchasing weapons from India, Fonseka said India should be ready to sell in the first place. “If anybody is ready to sell, we will buy,” he said. Sri Lanka is currently purchasing a large chunk of its arms and ammunition from China and Pakistan. “India is our nearest neighbour. If we could buy from India, we don't need to buy from anywhere else,” Fonseka said. He added that India has its own political sensitivities. “The LTTE after all comprises Tamil terrorists. India has to take a realistic view,” he said.

At the same time, Fonseka added that India was helping Sri Lanka in many ways.

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