India gifts Dornier aircraft to Sri Lanka hours before Chinese spy ship’s arrival

Hand over of Dornier Aircraft to Sri Lanka

Photo credit Twitter Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, August 15: A day before the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) spy ship Yuan Wang 5 docks in at the Hambantota Port, India gifted a Dornier Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft on Monday as part of the Colombo Security Conclave resolve to strengthen security of the maritime waters.

Sri Lanka straddles at one of the busiest sea trade routes, and has significant importance in ensuring its waters free of strife and conflict for the seamless movement of the supply chains.

The Dornier Aircraft was gifted at a special event held in Sri Lanka Air Force Base, Katunayake.

“Navy and Air Force personnel of Sri Lanka who received training in India for close to four months shall operate the aircraft. They will also receive operational support from their Indian counterparts,” said the Ministry of External Affairs in a media statement.

Newly-elected Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay were among the dignitaries to oversee the handover of the reconnaissance aircraft.

“The landmark event coincided with the celebration of India’s 75th anniversary of Independence,” added the MEA in its statement.

There has been significant popular outcry in India against the Chinse spy ship docking at the Hambantota airport for about a week, with strategic affairs experts decrying Colombo’s permission to Beijing to allow the ship in its waters, in the close vicinity of southern parts of India where a number of defence installations and assets, including nuclear power plant at Kudankulam, are located.

The Yuan Wang 2 is equipped to scan an area of 750 square kms.

“Sri Lankan ruling elites are under the influence of China. Colombo is further under the pressure of Beijing to allow the ship to dock since Sri Lanka is negotiating restructuring its debt, which is more than 10 per cent of the total foreign debts,” said one of the former diplomats, who have worked in Colombo previously.

Meanwhile, the MEA stated in its statement that the Dornier Aircraft would act as a force multiplier, enabling Sri Lanka to tackle multiple challenges such as human and drug trafficking, smuggling and other organized forms of crime in its coastal waters more effectively.

It may be recalled that Vickremesinghe had recently said that Sri Lanka is caught in the geo-strategic play between big powers.

However, some of the defence analysts claimed that international sea is free for all ships for navigation, and China may be requiring the Yuan Wang 5 to dock at Hambantota Port as part of the routine exercise as a back up to its space mission.

Even India too will require stationing its ships at multiple locations to provide back up support to the space missions, including the human missions, experts have argued.

“Induction of the (Dornier) aircraft will help in creating a peaceful environment for progress and prosperity of the people India and Sri Lanka,” said Baglay.

The gifting of Dornier Aircraft is also in line with the vision of ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR)’, said the MEA in its statement.

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