India to sell military hardware to Lanka
[TamilNet, Friday, 11 August 2000, 12:30 GMT]
India has decided to sell military hardware to Sri Lanka and negotiations are on to clinch the deal on an offshore patrol vessel for the Sri Lankan navy, according to Indian press reports Friday. The newindpress.com website, quoting sources in India's Ministry of Defence (MoD), said the Indian navy has earmarked an offshore patrol vessel (OPV), INS Shardae, made at Hindustan Shipyard Limited, Vishakhapatanam for sale to Sri Lanka.
The OPV is for the Sri Lankan navy to effectively patrol its coast and mainly try and prevent the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from bringing in arms and ammunition.
The Sri Lankan navy will also be getting weapon systems like surface-to- surface guns fitted in the OPV from India, the website run by the Indian Express newspaper group said.
India had purchased the OPVs from south Korea in the late 80s and early 90s. The fast crafts fitted with guns and special sights and devices for effective patrolling of the waters even at night, an official at Indian naval headquarters told newindpress.com.
"An OPV is not a warship. It is an auxiliary support system. It is like a support ship and can carry troops, food and water supplies. It is good for patrolling and for troop induction. Presently she (the OPV) is being retro-fitted to suit the needs of the Sri Lankan navy," he added.
MoD officials refused to be drawn into a controversy about certain sections within the country opposed to the sale of military hardware to Sri Lanka and said it was "beneficial for the government financially and marked a quantum jump in the growth of the defence industry in the country."
"This means that the Indian defence industry and especially the ship building industry has acquired international stature and manufacture ships which have a demand even in the international market," an official told newindpress.com.
Though there is fear of the "deal being opposed" by vested interests within the country, officials see this as a "great leap forward," in achieving the navy's aim of being a regional super power. "Negotiations are on at a very crucial stage and it would be wrong to say that India is fishing in troubled Sri Lankan waters. When we buy ships and aircraft from Britain, France or Russia they are not fishing in our troubled waters. Similarly we are just making a defence deal," the official was quoted as saying.