Sunday, June 27, 2010

Indian Naval Chief arrives in Colombo

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Admiral Nirmal Verma will arrive in Colombo today (June 27) for a six-day official visit, the first by a Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy since the conclusion of the war in May last year. His visit will coincide with the arrival of INS Delhi, one of three warships of its class built in India, at the Colombo harbor.

An authoritative Sri Lankan naval spokesman told The Sunday Island: "the visit will promote bilateral relations and mutual cooperation between the two countries and help Sri Lanka to enhance security in a post-LTTE era."

Admiral Verma will be accompanied by his wife Madhulika and a group of senior navy officers. They are scheduled to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne, External Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Roshan Gunatilleke and the service commanders.

Admiral Verma is also scheduled to attend a SLN passing out parade at the Naval and Maritime Academy in Trincomalee during his almost week-long stay here. He will grace the occasion as the Chief Guest.

Sri Lankan Navy Chief Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe had an opportunity to meet Admiral Verma during the 19th Sea Power symposium held at the Naval War College in the USA and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) held in UAE.

With a displacement of 6,700t, overall length of 163m and beam of 17m, the Delhi Class is the largest warship built in India. The ship, which is fitted with sophisticated anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-submarine sensor and weapon systems, is commanded by Captain S. Srikant.

During the fourth phase of the Eelam war, India helped Sri Lanka to enhance her offshore patrolling capacity, which enabled the SLN to destroy several LTTE floating arsenals on the high seas. India went to the extent of giving two of her OPVs (Offshore Patrol Vessels) for deployment in the war against the LTTE, though there had been some problems, primarily due to domestic political reasons in India.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says despite annihilation of the LTTE’s conventional military capacity, the Navy will have to be further strengthened to meet any eventuality. The Navy alongside the intelligence services, he says should be the first line of defence to thwart a fresh LTTE threat.

In a brief interview with The Sunday Island, the war veteran emphasized the pivotal importance of developing a cohesive approach as part of an overall strategy not only to tackle the LTTE, but enhance regional security as well.

Sri Lanka’s first priority in a post-LTTE era would be to thwart any attempt to revive the sea smuggling network to bring in arms, ammunition and equipment and trained cadres, he said. A desperate LTTE rump would now do anything to restore at least one sea supply route, he said adding that the country could not ignore that about 12,000 LTTE cadres were either captured or surrendered during the last phase of the war.

"The Somali pirates have caused an unprecedented international crisis by targeting ships over a period of time. A few years ago, no one would have expected a rag-tag force to challenge international sea routes, but today the international community is struggling to contain the threat," he said.

Recently Indian authorities arrested three persons suspected to be supporters of the LTTE with thousands of detonators in Tamil Nadu's Triuchirapalli district. Of them 4,900 were ordinary detonators and 430 electric detonators.

The trio had stayed in Chennai, Tiruchirappalli and Erode without registering themselves as from the island nation, the police said.

The arrests came four days after a member of LTTE was nabbed by the state police.

Sri Lankan military and External Affairs Ministry emphasized the importance of strengthening cooperation to meet any eventuality. Sources pointed out that a recent attempt by the NDTV network to sour Indo-Lanka relations by accusing the SLN of crossing the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary to attack Indian fishermen. It alleged that about 300 Indians had been killed at the hands of the SLN since the conclusion of the war, a charge denied by Navy headquarters.

© The Island

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