India donates second warship to Sri Lanka
[TamilNet, Sunday, 25 February 2007, 19:24 GMT]
India is to grant the Sri Lanka Navy another ocean-going warship as part of greater cooperation between the two countries, media reports in Colombo said Sunday.
The Nation newspaper said India “will either grant or lease a coast guard vessel” to the Sri Lanka Navy.
The former Indian Coast Guard vessel, ‘Varaha’, is similar to the Offshore Patrol craft (OPC) which India provided in 2000 and which is now the flagship of the SLN, the paper said. The Varaha will be the third large ‘blue water’ warship in the SLN’s fleet along with the US-supplied cutter.
The Varaha has already been serving with the SLN as a substitute while the SLNS Sayura, the flagship of the Sri Lanka navy, which was bought from India seven years ago, was being refurbished in India.
The refurbishment of SLNS Sayura was reportedly being conducted at no cost to Sri Lanka, press reports last year said.
A Vikram class OPV with the Indian Navy.
The 75 metre length Varaha requires a crew of 100 including 11 officers. It can reach a top speed of 22 knots and has a range of 8500 nautical miles.
If the proposed grant is carried through by the Indian government, the Varaha will be the SLN’s third such vessel with a deep sea capability, The Nation reported.
Formally known as Indian Navy’s Ship (INS) Saryu, the SLNS Sayura was provided to increase Colombo’s blue water capability, especially in the light of LTTE smuggling weapons on oceangoing ships.
Another OPC was added to the fleet last year when the US Coast Guard vessel, ‘Courageous’ was donated to Sri Lanka. It was refurbished and mounted with a weapons system in the United States and commissioned as SLNS Samudura.
All three vessels (Sayura, Samudura and Varaha) have the ability to carry one or two helicopters on board and leave the option open for the establishment of the naval air wing, which has been put off on several previous occasions due to monetary considerations, the paper said.
Varaha is a Vikram class OPC which was commissioned in 1992. At the time of construction it was designed to be in service for 20 years till 2012. However, after some modifications the vessel is expected to be in service for approximately 26 years.
The wear and tear of Coast Guard ships is greater since they stay longer at sea and cruise faster when involved in a chase and therefore, their lifespan is shorter than other naval assets of similar size, The Nation reported.
Interestingly, Sri Lankan military cooperation between its vital regional allies seems to be differentiated on specific needs, the paper said: “while Indian assistance has mainly focused on the maritime defence area, Pakistan has been involved in improving the capabilities of the Sri Lanka Air Force.”
Due to Indian sensitivities, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are playing down Islamabad’s support for Colombo by way of arms and ammunition, the paper said.
Indian defence analysts have said Pakistani Air Force commanders are in Sri Lanka helping the SLAF plan air attacks against the Liberation Tigers.