Indian Army chief in Sri Lanka to strengthen defence ties

Colombo, Dec. 20 (ANI): India's Chief of Army Staff, General Bikram Singh, has arrived in Colombo to meet with his Sri Lankan counterpart, Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya, as part of a four-day visit aimed at strengthening defence ties.

Singh was accorded a guard on honour at the army headwaters in Colombo, after which he proceeded to meet Jayasuriya.

Singh will also meet Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Economic Affairs Minister Basil Rajapaksa and Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa in the course of his visit.

The Indian media has reported that New Delhi is trying to strike balance between larger strategic considerations, in the backdrop of China making steady inroads into Sri Lanka, and domestic political considerations.

With archrival China expanding its financial and political influence in Sri Lanka with loans of $3.43 billion since 2009, Delhi is increasingly moving to shore up its traditional leverage over the island off its southern tip.

Earlier this year 27 Sri Lankan military personnel trained at a base near Chennai, the capital of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu in spite of regional politicians' protests.

About 800 to 900 Sri Lankan military personnel are trained in Indian military training institutes each year.

India's shadow has loomed large in Sri Lanka's civil war between the minority Tamil people and governments led by the Sinhalese majority.

India brokered a 1987 power-sharing deal between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that was never implemented. Although it has since the war's end called for parts of it be enacted, it has also backed President Mahinda Rajapaksa's position that Sri Lanka must solve its own problems. (ANI)