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India hands over maritime patrol aircraft to Sri Lanka ahead of arrival of China’s Yuan Wang 5 spy ship

The MEA said that the hand-over of the Dornier 228 aircraft by India was timely 'in view of the current challenges to Sri Lanka’s maritime security'
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 15 August 2022, 17:21 IST
Last Updated : 15 August 2022, 17:21 IST
Last Updated : 15 August 2022, 17:21 IST
Last Updated : 15 August 2022, 17:21 IST

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India on Monday handed over to Sri Lanka a Dornier 228 maritime patrol aircraft, even as its security concerns were brushed aside by the island nation, which granted permission to a ship used by Chinese People’s Liberation Army for satellite and ballistic missile tracking to dock at its Hambantota Port.

The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said that the hand-over of the Dornier 228 aircraft by India was timely “in view of the current challenges to Sri Lanka’s maritime security." New Delhi’s envoy to Colombo, Gopal Baglay, said that India’s gift of the maritime patrol aircraft to Sri Lanka was an example of its “strength adding to the strength of its friends."

New Delhi went ahead and handed over the aircraft to Sri Lanka, even as the island nation’s navy deployed its advanced offshore patrol vessel, SLNS Sindurala, for a ‘Passage Exercise’ with Pakistan Navy’s frigate, PNS Taimur, close to the southern coast of India, which celebrated its 76th Independence Day on Monday. China’s Yuan Wang 5 ship has also moved closer to Sri Lanka and will reach the Hambantota Port on Tuesday for a week-long visit.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, who took over as President of Sri Lanka on July 21, himself was present at the ceremony to mark the hand-over of the Dornier 228 aircraft by India. He said that Sri Lanka and India were “two sides of a single coin”. “For whatever it is, history has put us together and we have to stay together,” said Wickremesinghe, who was in the office of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka when erstwhile President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s administration had accepted Beijing’s request to Colombo to allow the Yuan Wang 5 to dock at the Hambantota Port. Wickremesinghe’s administration initially deferred the visit of the ship by a few days after New Delhi conveyed its security concerns, but later decided to allow it to dock at the Hambantota Port on Tuesday for refuelling and replenishment of stocks of other essentials.

The PNS Taimur – built by China and later handed over to Pakistan – had a 'Passage Exercise' with the SLNS Sindurala on Monday while departing the Colombo Port, where it had arrived on August 12 for a formal visit. The drill included manoeuvring as well as search and rescue exercises and, according to the Sri Lankan Navy, it was aimed at enhancing interoperability and partnership as well as exchanging best practices between the two navies.

The Pakistan Navy frigate had arrived at the Colombo Port after participating in exercises in Malaysia and Cambodia. After Dhaka had denied the Pakistan Navy frigate permission to dock at any port in Bangladesh, Islamabad had requested the Sri Lankan government to allow it to have a stopover at the Colombo Port for replenishment.

New Delhi did not make public if it had conveyed to the Sri Lankan government any security concern over the visit of the PNS Taimur. It, however, did take note of the fact that the Sri Lankan Navy had chosen to deploy its SLNS Sindurala for a 'Passage Exercise' with the PNS Taimur on a day India would celebrate its 76th Independence Day.

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Published 15 August 2022, 09:17 IST

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