Maritime security has been identified as a key pillar of the Colombo Security Conclave

India has gifted a Dornier Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft to Sri Lanka to help the island nation strengthen its maritime security. It was handed over at a special event held in Sri Lanka Air Force Base, Katunayake in the presence of Sri Lanka's President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The landmark event coincided with India's 76th Independence Day and came a day before Chinese ship Yuan Wang 5 - widely believed to be a spy ship - will dock at the Sri Lankan port of Hanbantota for a week.

Navy and Air Force personnel of Sri Lanka who received training in India for close to four months shall operate the aircraft. They will also receive operational support from their Indian counterparts, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) 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 organized 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 MEA pointed out. The capability of the aircraft to undertake Search and Rescue operations exemplifies its direct benefit to the people. The gift to the people of Sri Lanka 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 pillar of the Colombo Security Conclave, the MEA added.

In addition to President Wickremesinghe, Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay, Chief of Staff to the President Sagala Ratnayaka, Defence Secretary General Kamal Gunaratne, Vice Chief of Naval Staff of Indian Navy Vice Admiral S.N. Ghormade, Chief of Defence Staff General Shavendra Silva and Army, Navy and Air Force Chiefs of Sri Lanka graced the occasion.

“Gifting of Dornier aircraft underscores the cooperation between the two maritime neighbours in the defence and security spheres. Such cooperation is envisaged to add further capability and capacity to Sri Lanka and is in line with the vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR),” said the MEA.

"Ceremonial welcome for #India's latest gift to the people of #SriLanka in the august presence of President H.E @RW_UNP and other dignitaries. Dornier 228 Aircraft which was handed over to @airforcelk will add to Sri Lanka's security," the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka had tweeted earlier in the day.

"Like fruits of other areas of cooperation with India,the gift of Dornier to @airforcelk is of relevance to Sri Lanka and a step to meet its requirements for maritime safety and security. It is an example of India's strength adding to the strength of its friends and neighbours, including those in Indian Ocean Region and the Bay of Bengal, such as Sri Lanka," the High Commission added in another tweet.

Speaking at the handing over event, High Commissioner Baglay said the security of India and Sri Lanka is enhanced by mutual understanding, mutual trust and cooperation. Gifting of the Dornier 228 is India's latest contribution to this cause, he remarked.

The Dornier 228 Maritime Patrol Aircraft is a Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL), multirole light transport aircraft used by the Indian Navy for electronic warfare missions, maritime surveillance, and disaster relief system and has been in production since 1981.

Meanwhile, as India celebrated the 76th Independence Day, Sri Lanka extended its heartiest congratulations to the people and the Government of India. In a Twitter post, the High Commission of India in Colombo shared glimpses of the Independence Day celebrations in the nation.