Joint army exercise brings India, Sri Lanka closer

Indicative of  strengthening bilateral military relations, the special forces of India’s and Sri Lanka’s armies on Monday began a three-week mock war drill in the island nation.

Notwithstanding India’s “concerns” over China’s submarines and warships being docked at a Sri Lankan port, the “Mithra Shakthi” exercise will continue till November 23 with close to 40 Indian Army personnel taking part.

The drill began at the Uva-Kudaoya Commando Regiment Training School near Colombo, as a part of New Delhi’s attempts to advance a dialogue it began with Colombo in 2012 to counter China’s growing influence there.

The last dialogue was between India’s and Sri Lanka’s defence secretaries R K Mathur and Gotabaya Rajapaksa on October 9 in Colombo. Soon after the meeting, the Sri Lanka defence secretary, the younger brother of the island nation’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa, travelled to Delhi to meet Defence Minister Arun Jaitley. It was followed by a visit of the Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy, Vice Admiral Jayantha Perera, who not only met top officials but also travelled to the eastern and southern naval commands.

Because of the growing relations between the two countries’ militaries, defence ministry officials are not giving much importance to a Chinese submarine and warship that was docked there for refuelling last Friday.

Officials from the Defence and External Affairs Ministries have not, however, made any comment on the presence of Chinese military platforms in the island nation.

In an assurance to India, Sri Lankan Navy spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya said: “A submarine and a warship have docked at Colombo harbour. They came on October 31 and will be here for five days for refuelling and crew refreshment. This is nothing unusual. Since 2010, 230 warships have called at Colombo port from various countries on goodwill visits and for refuelling and crew refreshment.” .

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