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Days before a Chinese missile and satellite tracking ship docks in Sri Lanka's Hambantota port, Vice Chief of Indian Navy Vice Admiral S N Ghormade began a two-day visit to the island nation on Sunday to hand over a maritime surveillance aircraft, authoritative government sources said.
The sources told PTI that Vice Admiral Ghormade will give the Dornier aircraft to the Sri Lankan Navy at a ceremony in Colombo on Monday, which will be attended by the top military and civil brass of the island nation.
Indian Navy has already provided extensive training to a team from Sri Lanka's Navy and the Air Force to operate the maritime surveillance aircraft.
"Sri Lanka has been a key partner of India and we will continue to expand our bilateral defence cooperation in the months and years to come," a senior official said on condition of anonymity.
The sources said Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe is set to attend the handing-over ceremony and if he does, then it will send a strategic signal about expanding strategic ties between the two countries.
The sources said India will provide to Sri Lanka two Dornier aircraft which are being manufactured by state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Once these two-HAL manufactured aircraft are handed over, then the Dornier aircraft being given on Monday will return to the Indian Navy.
The handing over of the Dornier aircraft by India comes a day before Chinese ship 'Yuan Wang 5' docs at the Southern port of Hambantota on Tuesday for a week.
The ship was originally scheduled to arrive at the port on August 11 but it was delayed in absence of permission by the Sri Lankan authorities.
Sri Lanka had asked China to defer the visit amid India's concerns over it. On Saturday, Colombo granted the port access to the vessel from August 16 to 22.
There were apprehensions in New Delhi about the possibility of the vessel's tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian installations on while being on its way to the Sri Lankan port.
India on Friday rejected China's "insinuations" that New Delhi pressured Colombo against the visit by the vessel to the Sri Lankan port but at the same time asserted that it will take decisions based on its security concerns.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said Sri Lanka, as a sovereign country, makes its own independent decisions and noted that India would make its judgment on its security concerns based on the prevailing situation in the region.
In a related development, Sri Lankan Navy said Pakistan Navy Ship Taimur arrived in the country on a visit.
It said the ship is scheduled to conduct a 'Passage Exercise' with the Sri Lankan ship Sindurala in seas off Colombo upon completion of its visit.
It said certain media reports circulating about a 'War Game' between Sri Lankan Navy and Pakistan Navy are "fallacious".
"Sri Lanka Navy, with the concurrence of foreign navies, conducts Passage Exercises as a routine engagement when their visiting naval ships departing the island after making official port calls," it said in a statement.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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First Published: Sun, August 14 2022. 23:23 IST