India, Sri Lanka likely to launch defence dialogue next year

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NEW DELHI - India and Sri Lanka are likely to launch a defence dialogue next year in the backdrop of the changed security situation following the decimation of the Tamil Tigers.

“The two sides are looking at starting a defence dialogue next year. It’s in an exploratory stage,” a senior official said.

The issue could figure in discussions between External Affairs Minister and his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris when they meet in Colombo later this week. The two sides are expected to discuss issues that could form part of the proposed defence dialogue.

China is the largest supplier of military supplies to Sri Lanka. During the period of armed conflict between Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), India trod cautiously in its defence ties with Sri Lanka and had confined military assistance to non-lethal areas like enhancing the armed forces’ maritime and aerial domain awareness.

Sources, however, indicated that in view of the growing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, India may be open to the possibility of military sales to Colombo.

Krishna goes to Colombo Thursday on a four-day visit to launch Indian consulates in Jaffna and Hambantota, a trip that will also see New Delhi pushing for a meaningful devolution in the island-nation.

Krishna will hold bilateral talks with his counterpart G.L. Peiris with whom he will co-chair the 7th meeting of the joint commission and call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The inauguration of a pilot project of 1,000 house units for internally displaced Tamil civilians and rail links in Sri Lanka’s north, which was the main theatre of war, will be some of other highlights of the visit.

India feels that the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which left 90,000 people dead since 1983, has given the two countries a chance to rejuvenate their relationship on a new footing.

Against this backdrop, the two ministers are expected to stress on greater opening up of the two economies to one another, promoting better connectivity, pushing up people-to-people contacts.

In his interactions with Lankan leaders, Krishna is also expected to press for a meaningful devolution, an official said.

One of the railway lines will link Talaimannar and Madhu Church in Sri Lanka’s northwest and the other Omanthai and Pallai in the north.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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