Sri Lanka has played an important role between India and its army for more than three decades.
With the participation of the Indian Air Force Chief and 23 aircraft at a three-day event in Colombo on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Air Force (SLAF), India sought to reaffirm its strong defense cooperation with Sri Lanka. According to Captain Vikas Sood, Defense Advisor of the Indian High Commission, the Indian aircraft organized such an event in 2001 to mark the 50th year of the SLAF.
A team of 4 Sarang Advance Light Helicopters, Surya Kiran (Hawks), Tejas Fighter Aircraft, Tejas Trainer and Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft from India were in Sri Lanka this week to participate in a fly past and acrobatic display event with SLAF. Held on the seashore of Colombo. Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauri met Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and met senior defense officials.
Captain Sood said, “The engagement was very positive, we look forward to building our strong relationships.”
During the three-decade civil war in Sri Lanka, India has played an important role politically and at times, using its military. While the presence of the controversial Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), and 1987’s ‘Operation Poomalai’ – when the Indian Air Force dropped food supplies in Jaffna – drew criticism from sections, the Indian Army’s “support” was repeatedly acknowledged by Sri Lanka Has been a national leader.
In the post-war era of Sri Lanka, the Indo-Lanka military partnership has been mostly focused on training and capacity building. According to Captain Sood, more than 1,200 Sri Lankan military personnel are trained every year in India. “We provide about 50% of the total training, and we prioritize for Sri Lanka,” he said, adding that Sri Lanka had a “very large capacity” to contribute to regional security.
Last year, Indian Navy and Coast Guard personnel assisted the Sri Lankan Navy in an important firefighting operation when an oil tanker from the east coast of the island went into flames. In addition, Sri Lanka’s strategic location makes it an important partner for all countries in the region. Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan of Pakistan was in Sri Lanka to attend the 70th year celebrations. The Pakistani mission said, “The visit symbolizes the strong bond and friendship between the two countries and their armed forces.” Over the years, Sri Lanka has been known to maintain strong military ties with many partners in and outside the region.
At the domestic level, its defense sector is given high priority by all governments. A decade after the war, Sri Lanka allocated the largest part of its annual budget to the defense sector – an estimated LKR 23,250 million for the year 2021. The issue of national security was on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 presidential campaign months after the Easter terror bombings.
Meanwhile, residents of the pre-war zone highlighted continuing militarization in the north and east, which was seen at many military check points and is still land held by the military. Following the election of President Rajapaksa, at least 28 serving or former military and intelligence personnel were appointed to key administrative positions, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michel Bachelet has noted in his recent report. The Sri Lankan army has also been at the forefront of the country’s Kovid-19 response since March last year.