Thanking India big time for providing the much-needed assistance as it undergoes a major economic crisis, Sri Lanka continues to seek more collaborations with New Delhi, specifically in the northern Jaffna Peninsula and Trincomalee on the northeast coast of the country.
On Wednesday, the Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari called on Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at Temple Trees in Colombo to hold discussions on matters related to defence cooperation between the two countries.
The Lankan PM thanked India for the continuous support given to Sri Lanka and expressed his gratitude to the IAF for immediately responding to the call for support during recent maritime disasters in Sri Lankan waters.
The CAS detailed Gunawardena about India building a ‘Friendship Auditorium’ at the Sri Lanka Air Force base in Trincomalee as a symbol of close cooperation between the two forces. He added that India would increase collaboration to further strengthen the National Defence College in Sri Lanka.
Air Marshal Choudhury also stated that the two Air Forces would conduct a joint exercise on disaster management in the last quarter of this year in Lankan waters.
Lankan PM, meanwhile, recalled the longstanding friendship between the two countries, thanking Indian Air Force for training the first two women pilots of Sri Lanka Air Force who are now active members of the SLAF flying squad.
Both Jaffna and Trincomalee are largely inhabited by Tamils and suffered massive devastation during the bloody civil war which lasted for more than 25 years.
The India-Sri Lanka Friendship Auditorium at Sri Lanka Air Force Academy in Trincomalee will be constructed under the 250 million LKR grant assistance by the Government of India (GOI), in line with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.
Trincomalee Harbour is the fifth largest natural harbour in the world, strategically located in the heart of the Indian Ocean with the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and English having fought many sea battles to conquer it.
New Delhi is also deeply engaged with Colombo on the development of the Oil Tank Farm in Trincomalee, a mutually beneficial proposition that promises to assist Sri Lanka in building petroleum reserves and address supply and price volatility.
Trincomalee, Sri Lanka (Image courtesy: Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Cartographic Section, United Nations)
On the other hand, India has been associated with several Development Partnership projects in Jaffna, which served as an important strategic location for Lankan military forces in the northern theatre during its long conflict with the LTTE.
The iconic Jaffna Cultural Center, the foundation stone of which was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, was inaugurated this February.
It has been yet another shining example of close cooperation between the two friendly neighbours – Sri Lanka has been accorded the status of ‘Priority One’ partner by India – and ensuring Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), as envisioned by PM Modi.
Earlier in the day, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari met with Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary General Kamal Gunaratne at the Ministry of Defence in Sri Jayawardenepura, Kotte.
On Tuesday, the IAF chief held meetings with Lankan President Ranil Wickramasinghe at the presidential secretariat and also the National Security Advisor Sagala Rathnayake.
As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, the IAF donated two sets of AN-32 propellers to Lankan Air Force to enhance its operational capability on a request made by its Commander Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana during the recently-concluded Defence Dialogue.
During the acquisition ceremony held at the Heavy Transport Squadron premises in SLAF base Katunayake, the host government recalled the longstanding ties with India, calling it as a “great source of strength” over the past 2500 years. It was also mentioned that, in the last 20 years, the IAF has provided nearly 300 technical courses in its training schools for officers and airmen of the Sri Lanka Air Force as proof of this long-standing defence cooperation.
It has also been spotlighted during Air Marshal Choudhury’s high-level meetings with the island nation’s top political and military leadership that the proposed increase in flights to Palali International Airport and the future ferry services from South India to Sri Lanka would boost pilgrims and cultural tourism between the two countries.