Politics won’t hinder Indo-Lanka naval cooperation

A three-day Indo-Lanka naval exercise (CADEX 09) began yesterday (October 6) off Colombo against the backdrop of Indian accusations that the Sri Lankan Navy had repeatedly attacked Indian fishing vessels poaching in Lankan waters in the Gulf of Mannar. A section of the Indian press last month said that the SLN had killed at least 50 Indian fishermen in a fortnight.

The exercise involved INS Shardul and Indian Coast Guard Ship (ICGS) Varuna and two SLN vessels, namely Sayura, and Samudura, formerly of the Indian Navy and the US Coast Guard, respectively. Yesterday’s highlight was the launch of an Indian-built helicopter from INS Shardul, a Landing Ship Tank commanded by Commander Raghunath Nair. Its crew comprises 20 officers and 250 sailors and is 125 metres in length.

The ICGS 75 metre ‘Varuna’ is an Offshore Patrol vessel is commanded by Commandant Kalpit Dixit. Its crew comprises 15 officers and 100 sailors.

The vessels converged off about 35 nautical south west of Colombo where SLN Fast Attack Craft (FACs) threw a cordon though the Sea Tigers did not pose a threat now.

Last night, the vessels engaged in live firing exercise.

The navy took a group of local journalists onboard SLN Hansaya, a fast passenger ship which operated between Trincomalee and KKS during the war,

to observe the manoeuvres, the first since the end of war last May. SLN spokesman Captain D. K. P. Dassanayake said the training exercise was an annual feature though it could not be held last year due to the war. Responding to our queries, he expressed the belief that this would definitely help improve relations between the SLN and the Indian naval forces.

According to him, during the three-day programme, they would also engage in VBSS (Visit, Board, Search and Seizure) training. This would be part of their preparations against the threat posed by pirates, and the Indian vessels were here on the invitation of the Navy Commander Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe. The elite Special Boat Squadron (SBS) of the SLN would be involved in the VBSS exercise, he said. The exercise would envisage an SBS raid on 521 (a large trawler type vessel).

CADEX 09 would provide SLN Officer Cadets an opportunity to train onboard Indian ships to enhance and exchange knowledge and their counterparts to familiarize themselves with tri-forces military training institutions in Sri Lanka. The visiting Indians also visited Trincomalee, the heart SLN operations directed against the LTTE during the war.

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