India is working on a plan to offer $50 million Line of Credit (LoC) to Sri Lanka in the defence sector –– the first such gesture towards the Southern neighbour as the two sides decided to expand defence and security partnership at Saturday’s summit to stabilise the Indian Ocean Region and the Bay of Bengal in the backdrop of China’s growing ambitions in these zones.
Delhi has plans to offer defence hardware to Lanka under LoC, besides expanding the training programme of the military of the island nation, ET has reliably gathered. There are also plans to supply hardware and equipment to other branches of the country’s military besides expanding supplies for Navy based on their needs, ET has learnt.
At the summit, held virtually, the two PMs, according to a joint statement, decided to “strengthen cooperation between the armed forces of the two sides, including through mutual exchange of personnel visits, maritime security cooperation and support to Sri Lanka in the spheres of defence and security”.
Ever since Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been elected President in 2019, he has shown interest in orienting Sri Lanka’s maritime policy in the Indian Ocean Region and the Bay of Bengal in collaboration with its immediate neighbour, India. Gotabaya has appointed people with military background in key decision-making positions in the bureaucracy as part of his plans. India has been assured that its legitimate security interests, including in the maritime domain, will not be compromised and Colombo would uphold the concept of Freedom of Navigation. Lankan BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation) presidency would augment its maritime policy, sources familiar with Colombo’s policies explained to ET.
Sri Lanka could become the second country in India’s neighbourhood to receive defence-related LoCs. India is working with Bangladesh to implement a $500 miliion defence-related LoC offered a few years back.
Among the key elements of the current Indo-Lankan military cooperation, almost 50% of all foreign military training slots in India are allocated to Lankan defence personnel. Besides, there are regular high-level exchanges and visits, joint exercises, ship visits and sports interactions.
Delhi and Colombo also have plans to put in place a robust counter-terror framework, including deradicalisation initiatives in the backdrop of the 2019 Easter bombings. The two sides have stepped up Intelligence cooperation on the high seas ever since Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power, enabling Colombo to crack down against drug mafia that funds terrorism within Sri Lanka, one of the above mentioned sources told ET.
“Enhance cooperation to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, including in the fields of intelligence, information sharing, de-radicalisation and capacity building,” read the joint statement.
Developments after Easter Sunday terror attacks demonstrated the resolve of India to cooperate in the Counter-Terrorism field, including through timely Intelligence sharing. This was in line with the Modi government’s approach of zero tolerance to terrorism anywhere, everywhere, anytime and every time, one of the above-mentioned sources said.
At the virtual summit, the Lankan PM expressed gratitude for the help of the Indian security establishment, specifically regarding the alert sent by India on the terrorist threats to Lanka, including the Easter Sunday terror attacks.
– Ada Derena