India gifted a Dornier reconnaissance aircraft to Sri Lanka to strengthen the island nation’s capability to tackle drug trafficking and maritime security challenges, with the move coming a day ahead of a controversial visit by a Chinese research vessel. The aircraft was handed over in a special event held at the Sri Lankan Air Force base at Katunayake. Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Indian Navy’s vice chief Vice Admiral SN Ghormade, Indian envoy Gopal Baglay and the heads of the three services of Sri Lanka attended the event that coincided with the celebration of India’s 75th anniversary of independence.
The public show of support for strengthening Sri Lanka’s maritime security came a day ahead of the scheduled arrival of Chinese vessel Yuan Wang 5, used by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to track satellites and ballistic missiles, at Hambantota Port. The Sri Lankan side gave in to pressure from China and cleared the entry of the vessel after calling on the Chinese side to defer the ship’s visit on August 5.
The statement said “The aircraft would act as a force multiplier, enabling Sri Lanka to tackle multiple challenges such as human and drug trafficking, smuggling and other organised forms of crime in its coastal waters more effectively. Induction of the aircraft is timely in view of the current challenges to Sri Lanka’s maritime security. The aircraft’s capability to undertake search and rescue operations exemplifies its direct benefit to the Sri Lankan people, and the gift “will equip the country to contribute more towards the security of the Indian Ocean region at large”.
Maritime security has been identified as a key support of the Colombo Security Conclave, a group that includes India, the Maldives, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, with Bangladesh and Seychelles as observer nations.
Indian high commissioner Gopal Baglay spoke on the occasion emphasised that the aircraft’s induction will “help in creating a peaceful environment for progress and prosperity of the people of India and Sri Lanka”.
The gifting of the Dornier aircraft also underscores the cooperation between India and Sri Lanka in the defence and security spheres, the external affairs ministry said. This cooperation is envisaged to add further capability and capacity to Sri Lanka and is in line with India’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).