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India to remain Sri Lanka's most reliable friend; offers modern defence equipment


Officials during the second India-Sri Lanka Defence Seminar in Colombo. (Photo Courtesy: High Commission of India in Colombo/ hcicolombo.gov.in/)

COLOMBO (PTI): India on Wednesday said it is and will remain Colombo's most reliable friend and dependable partner as it underlined that New Delhi was willing to offer modern defence equipment to friendly partner countries like Sri Lanka.

Addressing the Second India-Sri Lanka Defence Seminar in Colombo, India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Santosh Jha, said that like in other areas, India and Sri Lanka were cooperating closely on security and defence matters.

"Because of our geography, our security is interlinked and intertwined. And when we speak of security, we must remember that it has acquired a wider meaning than we have traditionally associated with it," Jha said and added, after the Covid-19 pandemic and impact of Russia-Ukraine conflict, it has come to include energy, health, food and even economic security.

The various advanced platforms and equipment developed indigenously in India can also become viable, affordable and modern solutions for the Sri Lankan military, he said.

"Our support in recent years to Sri Lanka, during the Covid pandemic and the economic crisis, was driven by our sense of responsibility and obligation for our closest friend and neighbour. We stood shoulder to shoulder with our civilisational twin when it was needed most and without any hesitation," he said, referring to the more than USD four billion in economic assistance extended to the country during its unprecedented economic turmoil.

"Many of you will agree that India is and will remain Sri Lanka’smost reliable friend and a trusted and dependable partner," Jha said, adding, "Our bilateral cooperation is expanding and diversifying. It is buttressed by India’s growing national capabilities."

Sri Lanka’s State Minister of Defence Premitha Bandara Tennakoon, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Shavendra Silva and the Commanders of the Air Force and Navy apart from senior officials from the Sri Lankan Armed Forces were present on the occasion.

He said that under the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) vision, India has developed “significant capability development” within the Indian defence industry.

“We have invested in research and development and promoted the use of innovation and new-age technologies to build capabilities that are future-ready," Jha said.

“The Indian defence industry today rolls out state-of-the-art systems, advanced technologies and world-class equipment,” he said and named fighter aircraft, helicopters, naval vessels, electronic warfare systems, cyber security solutions, small arms and large calibre precision long-range artillery systems among others.

“Not only are we producing for our own national requirements, but we have been willing to make these capabilities available to our friendly partner countries like Sri Lanka,” the High Commissioner said.

India’s defence exports today stand at nearly USD 2.6 billion – a 10-fold increase over the past five years, he said, adding, “We export defence hardware and software to more than 85 countries with more than 100 indigenous firms active in this field.”

“Today, India can offer high quality, low cost, and reliable technology in defence with an assured supply chain for long-term maintenance support,” Jha added.

“As in other sectors, our endeavour has been that our growing capabilities must also benefit our neighbours, including Sri Lanka. We are committed to supporting the needs and requirements of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces,” he added.

He also expressed confidence that the seminar, being held in Sri Lanka for the second time in the last two years, will focus on security and defence cooperation and help identify the shared priorities for the two nations.

Jha said that the event, which would showcase various advanced platforms and equipment, would enable the Sri Lankan armed forces to familiarise themselves with various capabilities that have been developed indigenously in India.

“We are confident that these can also become viable, affordable and modern solutions for the Sri Lankan military,” he asserted.

Earlier, he reminded the gathering of their “shared civilisational past, common heritage and strong cultural connect” that has created “a natural warmth and comfort in dealing with each other.”

Jha also said, as close and proximate neighbours, “cooperation is the only option” but added that it is “not driven by choice and opportunity alone.”

“Our approach to Sri Lanka is guided by our neighbourhood-first policy and our SAGAR vision. This entails that we share with our closest neighbours all that we can based on their needs and aspirations. It also entails that our approach remains generous and non-reciprocal,” he said.

SAGAR or Security and Growth for All in the Region is a flagship government initiative to help the Indian Ocean Region neighbours.

Led by Anurag Bajpai, Additional Secretary, Department of Defence Production, India’s Ministry of Defence, a large and very diverse delegation from the Indian defence industry, including some leading Indian Defence Public Sector entities and a wide range of industry players from the private sector, too attended the seminar.

Representatives from the Sri Lankan business too were in attendance.

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