2ND LEAD

Happy, but not content: Sarath Fonseka on Indian military help

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 04 March 2008, 17:50 GMT]
Sri Lanka Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, who is on a six-day official visit to India, on Tuesday admitted that both the countries enjoyed a sound military relationship according to reports in the Indian media. "Militarily we have very good relationships for long time and we hope to continue relationships that we are having right now. We are very happy with that," he told mediapersons after inspecting a Guard of Honour at the Indian Defence Ministry headquarters. "The relations between both countries are good at the political level but need to be increased at the military level," he said having met his Indian counterpart Gen. Deepak Kapoor on Tuesday afternoon.

Fonseka speech
SLA Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka [Library Photo]
"I am here to further strengthen the military ties," he told reporters.

Fonseka reportedly urged India to supply arms to Colombo which has been procuring its sophisticated, lethal weapons from China and Pakistan.

Since several countries have withheld aid to Sri Lanka because of its abusive human rights record, Fonseka has turned to New Delhi to procure "light helicopters, combat vehicles and other infantry systems to arm its troops with modern weaponry" according to reports in the Indian media.

Though India hasn't contributed lethal weaponry that would further the Tamil genocide, it has supplied three indigenously produced "Indra" radars to Sri Lanka. In recent days, high-ranking Indian officers have admitted to providing intelligence inputs to the Sri Lankan forces and conducting coordinated patrols in the Palk Straits. Informed Indian news-reports expect New Delhi to offer to freely upgrade Colombo's air defences to balance the threat from LTTE's newly established air wing.

Armed with a heavy wallet (Colombo's projected defence spending for 2008 stands at 1.57 billion dollars, up 20 percent from last year), Fonseka's visit resembles a weapon shopping spree. On Wednesday, Fonseka is scheduled to call on the Indian Defence Minister A. K. Antony, National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan, Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, and the Indian Air Force chief Marshal Fali Home Major.

On Monday Fonseka toured areas close to the Line of Control near the Pakistani border for an operational briefing about anti-militancy operations of the Indian Army's northern command. He flew in an Indian army helicopter to forward post at Tangdhar and sought details of the tactics being used to fight militants and foil suicide attacks.

For a man from a war-torn country, Fonseka's Indian tour also has its tourism component. As his troops keep dying in dozens, Fonseka will be seen saying his prayers at Bodh Gaya, a Buddhist pilgrimage center, apart from stopping over briefly at Agra to admire the legendary Taj Mahal. However Fonseka is no stranger to India: he has attended extensive courses at the Indian Army's Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Varingte in Mizoram and at the Commando School at Belgaum in Karnataka.


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