Bilateral engagement in defence between India and Sri Lanka is multi-dimensional in nature

Underscoring the importance it attaches to the 'Neighbourhood First’ policy, India has reiterated its commitment to strengthening defence cooperation with Sri Lanka.

The issue was discussed on the sidelines of DefExpo 2022 being held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, when Sri Lanka's State Minister of Defence Premitha Bandara Tennakoon met India's Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt on October 17.

"During the meeting, India’s readiness to continue to support Sri Lanka in the defence sphere was reiterated," the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka said in a press release issued on Friday (October 21).

Tennakoon was heading a three-member official delegation that includes Sri Lanka Army and Navy officers on a visit to India for attending the biennial global defence exhibition DefExpo2022.

The Sri Lankan delegation also had useful meetings with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, the Chief of Defence Staff, and the three service chiefs.

"The futuristic partnership between the two neighbours underscores India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy as well as Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) doctrine. India will continue to strengthen its multi-dimensional cooperation with Sri Lanka for mutual benefit and also for enhancing regional peace, security and stability," the High Commission said.

Speaking at DefExpo2022, Tennakoon hailed the defence partnership between India and Sri Lanka. He highlighted the importance of the defence industrial base in augmenting security policy and noted that DefExpo 2022 provided a great avenue for a deeper understanding of the nature of transformation in modern warfare across five dimensions, according to the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka.

According to the High Commission, bilateral engagement in defence is multi-dimensional in nature. High level exchanges continued both ways despite the challenges posed by Covid-19. SLINEX (Naval Exercise) and exercise MITRA SHAKTI (Army Exercise) are held every year alternatively in India and Sri Lanka.

Both Armed Forces collaborate closely in dealing with common security challenges such as drug and human trafficking. The Colombo Security Conclave has emerged as a key security platform in recent times to address such issues at a regional level.

The first ever Dornier maritime reconnaissance aircraft from India to enhance the maritime surveillance capabilities of Sri Lanka was inducted into Sri Lanka Air Force Fleet on August 15, 2022 in the presence of President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Experience sharing and capacity building has been a key pillar of India-Sri Lanka defence cooperation, which is marked by great camaraderie and mutual benefit in enhancing our shared security, the High Commission pointed out.

Indian military establishments including NDC have been the preferred choice of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces for decades and have produced leaders of Sri Lankan Armed forces. Annually, 1500-1700 slots are allocated to Sri Lankan trainees which amounts to around INR 500-550 million (more than USD 6 million).

Similarly, Indian Armed Forces officers are also hosted by the friendly Armed Forces of Sri Lanka, including for specialized training modules in various fields such as counter insurgency.