India to bolster military supplies to Lanka
23 Jun 2008 NEW DELHI: India is to further bolster military supplies to Sri Lanka, alarmed as it is with the way Colombo continues to turn to China, as also Pakistan to some degree, to obtain weapon systems and platforms.
The arms supplies will be "largely" defensive in nature, in keeping with the policy to supply mainly "non-lethal" equipment to the island nation, said sources.
India believes there cannot be a "military solution" to the bloody ethnic strife in Sri Lanka, and is concomitantly pushing for a dialogue process and devolution package for the Tamils without disrupting the country’s territorial integrity.
The need for renewed political efforts was, once again, conveyed to the Mahinda Rajapaksa government by the high-level delegation led by national security advisor M K Narayanan, which also included foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and defence secretary Vijay Singh, to Colombo over the weekend.
But at the same time, India cannot
ignore the deep inroads being made into its own strategic backyard by China, which is providing Sri Lanka with a wide array of "cheap" arms and ammunition to bolster its ongoing battle with LTTE.
"The story of Myanmar is being repeated in Sri Lanka. China is already all over the island nation, with a flurry of arms deals, oil explorations and construction projects like the Hambantota port," said a senior official. Sources said the Narayanan delegation also expressed India’s disquiet over Sri Lanka continuing to source weapon systems in a major way from China and Pakistan.
Towards this end, during the wide-ranging discussions on "mutual concerns" with president Mahinda Rajapaksa and defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, among others, the Indian delegation promised "all help" in the military supplies, intelligence and training arenas.
Interestingly, Narayanan has earlier publicly asked Sri Lanka to desist from seeking arms from China or Pakistan, holding that India as "the big power" in the region would meet its legitimate defence requirements.
But, due to political sensitivities in Tamil Nadu, India has so far supplied "defensive" weapon systems to Sri Lanka, ranging from 40mm L-70 anti-aircraft guns to ‘Indra’ low-flying detection radars, primarily meant to thwart aerial strikes by LTTE.
Both China and Pakistan have gleefully jumped into this vacuum in recent times to quench Sri Lanka’s thirst for weapons with "offensive capabilities", much like what happened in Myanmar when India ignored the military junta there in the 1990s. Colombo, for instance, has signed a $37.6 million deal with the Beijing-based Poly Technologies for a wide variety of arms, ammunition, mortars and bombs.
Sri Lanka is also getting some Chinese Jian-7 fighters, JY-11 3D air surveillance radars, armoured personnel carriers, T-56 (a copy of the famous AK-47) assault rifles, machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and missiles.
India, on its part, apart from weapon deliveries, is conducting "coordinated" naval patrolling with Sri Lanka along the IMBL (international maritime boundary line) to curb LTTE activity on the high seas.(Times of India)