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France proposes maritime security school in militarised Tamil homeland

The French Government has initiated a joint cooperation with the Kotalawala Defence University (KDU) to set up a maritime security school in the heavily militarised region of Trincomalee, in the Tamil homeland, as part of a broader strategy for maritime security in the Indian Ocean region.

French ambassador for Indo-Pacific Marc Abensour who was in Colombo last week, told reporters that France was keen to explore a dedicated school that would focus on maritime safety and security. Whilst meeting with the KDU, the French Ambassador mentioned that discussions were underway about the modalities of setting up the training school and the possibility of subsequently allowing students in the region to join. France is not alone in have an interst in the development of Trincomalee, India has also expressed in several projects in the region including establishing a port. However, these Indian initiatives have often been stymied.

Read our latest editorial here: India and Sri Lanka’s incompatible interests

The French ambassador also paid a courtesy call on the State Defence Minister Premitha Bandara Tennakoon where the maritime school figured prominently during the discussions. 

Tennakoon said the maritime training school would be beneficial to both countries as Sri Lanka has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

The ambassador also met the Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera at the Navy Headquarters in Colombo during his visit to Sri Lanka. 

The Sri Lankan Navy in a statement said that they held a cordial discussion on several matters on mutual importance. “The occasion was also attended by the Military Technical Cooperation Officer in charge of Maritime Safety of the French Embassy in Sri Lanka, Commander Jean–Baptiste Trouche and Naval Assistant to the Commander of the Navy, Commodore Kosala Warnakulasooriya.”

The Ambassador had told reporters in Colombo that the French EEZ in the Indian Ocean, compared to other countries is one of the largest.

“We also contribute to the regional stability and have a military presence in the Indian Ocean. We have military bases in Djibouti and also in the Emirates. We have about 4,000 military personnel deployed across the Indian Ocean. They contribute to the protection of our sovereignty but also help to protect the sea lanes of communication. Also, they protect the underwater cables". He added that it is important to engage with the Sri Lankan government with similar interests which include addressing climate change and plastic waste.

Despite growing concerns over Sri Lanka's continued and extensive military occupation of the Tamil North-East, the French government did not voice alarm.

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