Monday, October 05, 2009

Three Indian warships arrive today Joint exercise belies anti-Lanka propaganda

Amidst allegations by some South Indian politicians that the Sri Lanka Navy attacks Indian fishermen near the international maritime boundary even after the end of the war, a combined Indo-Lanka naval exercise off Colombo is being planned.

A three-day exercise is scheduled to begin early this week in the Western Naval Area.

The LTTE collapsed on May 18 after bloody clashes on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon eliminated the last group of terrorists, including its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Sources said three Indian warships would be involved in the exercise, the first joint naval exercise after Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism. The vessels are expected to reach Colombo today (October 5). Responding to our queries, an official said that India’s readiness to go ahead with the exercise was evidence that even the Centre did not take South Indian criticism of SLN action seriously.

Sources said the SLN had thrown a cordon to prevent Indian fishermen crossing the maritime boundary to poach in Sri Lankan waters and there was no truth in claims of indiscriminate attacks on Indian trawlers. The LTTE had extensively used Indian boats to smuggle in arms, ammunition and explosives and in some instances seized boats but some Indian officials and politicians always placed the blame on the SLN, sources said.

A section of the Indian press recently accused the SLN of having killed at least 50 Indian fishermen within a fortnight, a claim strongly denied by the Sri Lankan government. This was followed by a raid on Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi by a group of protesters, who demanded an immediate stop to SLN attacks on Indian fishermen; they also demanded Kachchativu island back.

Sources said that SLNS Sayura, formerly of the Indian Navy and SLNS Shakthi, previously of the Chinese Navy would be involved in the exercise. SLNS Sayura is the first of the three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) acquired from India while SLNS Shakthi, a Landing Ship Tank is the only one of its category with the SLN.

Meanwhile, Sukanya Class OPV INS Savitri which arrived in Colombo on Friday (October 2) will leave for the Maldives today. The Indian warship was escorting the Maldivian Coast Guard vessel ‘Hurawee’ on its way to India for a re-fit. Sources recalled that ‘Hurawee’ had been responsible for sinking an Indian fishing trawler, Sri Krishna, commandeered by the LTTE in May 2007. The Maldivians had backed Sri Lanka’s efforts to destroy the LTTE arms smuggling network by giving direct access to captured LTTE terrorists, sources said.

Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe on Saturday visited INS ‘Savitri’ at the Port of Colombo, where he met the outgoing Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, Alok Prasad.

Sources said that Sri Lanka was grateful for the opportunity given by India for SLN personnel to train onboard their vessels.

A few weeks ago, a Pakistani warship arrived in Colombo on a goodwill visit.

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