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Thursday September 29th, 2022

India gifts maritime surveillance aircraft to Sri Lanka amid Chinese ‘spy ship’ row

ECONOMYNEXT – A marine surveillance aircraft donated by India was ceremoniously handed over to the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) marking India’s 75th Independence Day celebrations amid a controversy over a Chinese tracking vessel.

The Indian Air force gifted a Dornier 228 Maritime Patrol Aircraft to the SLAF on Monday August 15, with another aircraft to be donated within two years.

The handover ceremony was a high profile event attended by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay and other senior officials, even as the Chinese Yuan Wang 5 tracking vessel was en route to the Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka’s deep south.

The vessel, dubbed a spy ship by Indian media and at the centre of an apparent geopolitical standoff between Sri Lanka, India and China, docked at the Chinese-built Hambantota Port just a day after the India-centred ceremony in Colombo.


Chinese tracking vessel Yuan Wang 5 docks at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port

Speaking at the Colombo event, President Wickremesinghe said history has brought India and Sri Lanka together like two sides of the same coin and the two countries must forge ahead together.

Wickremesinghe said both countries must commit to further strengthening bilateral relations as India and Sri Lanka share “many commonalities” that they can build on.

“I have always said that we are two sides of a single coin. It is not possible to split a coin for one face to fall one way and the other face to fall the other way. For whatever it is, history has put us together and we have to stay together. What is this relationship? I haven’t got a word for it, but the closest I could come is the symbiotic relationship between the two countries,” he said.

Ever since he assumed office, President Wickremesinghe has repeatedly expressed his gratitude to India for its much needed financial assistance to Sri Lanka during its worst economic crisis in 74 years of independence. But analysts say he and the government have had to manage tough balancing act without alienating China which has had much influence over the island nation in recent years.

The president also had a word of advice for aspiring leaders.

“My word of advice to rising politicians and those who aspire for higher office is get to know your Indian colleagues, get to know them well and get to deal with them because if you do not do that, it will be difficult for you to look at issues and understand what each other says,” he said.

“We have common viewpoints in many areas. We are but a small country in the middle of the ocean, while India, while looking after its own interests must also look at its role as a global power. But it is essential that we speak to them. After all India is our closest neighbor and there are many issues that are common to us of which we are understanding, of which we have to resolve. Not only issues pertaining to Indo-Lanka relations but to the region and to the world. So in these areas it is possible for us, and it has been on many occasions for us to come to an agreement or have a similar viewpoint with India. It is with those that we consolidate.”

At India’s own Independence Day celebrations held on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India must strive to be a developed nation in 25 years. Wickremesinghe acknowledged this possibility in his speech.

“India today is becoming a world power and it is still on the rise and by the mid-century when we are no longer there, you could see a powerful India playing a dominant role on the global stage,” he said. (Colombo/Aug15/2022)

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