Enhanced Sri Lanka-Pakistan defence cooperation likely
*Talks during Zardari’s Colombo visit this month


by Zacki Jabbar 

Enhanced defence cooperation between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is likely to be finalised during Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s three-day official visit to Sri Lanka, later this month.

Diplomatic and government sources said that there was a wide scope for enhanced military ties between the two nations and it would be explored during talks between Zardari and his Sri Lankan counterpart, President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

"With the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the nature as well as scope of defence cooperation is bound to change somewhat, but in a broader sense it would include military training, intelligence sharing, arms supplies, etc. Pakistan has already proposed a futuristic defence cooperation agreement. As one of the largest suppliers of high-tech military equipment, Pakistan played an important role in assisting Sri Lanka defeat the LTTE," source said.

Pakistan is said to have the largest conventional arms and ordnance facility, which provides several varieties of armaments for export. These include infantry weapons, anti-aircraft and artillery ammunition, tank and aircraft ammunition, rockets and aerial bombs.

Sources said that in May 2008,the then Army Commander Lt. Gen Fonseka had visited Pakistan to finalise the purchase of high tech arms for the Sri Lankan armed forces, which were embroiled in an intense battle with the LTTE.

"The shopping list included 22 Al-Khalid tanks worth US$ 100 million and weaponry totalling about US$ 65 million. The inventory for the army was worth US$ 25 million and US$ 40 million for the Air Force. 250,000 rounds of mortar ammunition costing US$ 25 million and 150,000 hand grenades were also purchased on an urgent delivery basis. One ship load was sent to Sri Lanka every 12 days to bolster the assault on the LTTE’s headquarters in Killinochchi," he said.

Talks between Zadari and Rajapaksa, would also cover trade, investment, economic cooperation, tourism, culture and media, the sources said.

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