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India, Lanka to step up defence ties

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 10.06.10
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Singh (left) and Rajapaksa in New Delhi. (Rajesh Kumar)

New Delhi, June 9: India today promised to train a much larger number of Sri Lankan military personnel at its defence training facilities as part of its increased defence co-operation with Colombo.

After the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) experiment, when Delhi sent military contingents to LTTE-ravaged Lanka between 1987 and 1990, India had largely kept its defence co-operation with the island country on the backburner. After the annihilation of the Tamil Tigers, India now seems more assured of increasing its defence co-operation with Colombo.

At today’s talks between visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the two “leaders agreed to promote dialogue on security and defence issues of relevance to their bilateral relationship and enhance high-level military exchanges and training of military personnel as well as impart additional training in Indian institutions for the newly recruited police personnel”.

The two countries also agreed to start an annual defence dialogue. Rajapaksa will tomorrow fly to Shimla, where the Army Training Command is based.

Defence co-operation between the two countries suffered a setback after Delhi withdrew the IPKF in 1990 because of differences with the then Sri Lankan President, R. Premadasa.

Today, the two sides agreed to strengthen co-operation in fighting terrorism. They signed a treaty on mutual legal assistance on criminal matters and an agreement to transfer sentenced prisoners.

Sources said the UPA government, faced with the Maoist menace, hoped to learn from the island nation’s experience in decimating the LTTE. The Maoists’ guerrilla warfare techniques are based on those of the LTTE.

Singh congratulated Rajapaksa on the successful fight against the LTTE. “It (the defeat of the Tamil Tigers) provided a historic opportunity for the country’s leaders to address all outstanding issues in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation,” Singh said.

He also emphasised the need for a “meaningful devolution package” for Sri Lankan Tamils “to create the necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement in Sri Lanka”. India and Sri Lanka agreed to closely work to expedite the resettlement of the Tamils who were displaced during the war.