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India to develop KKS harbour

Indian is to develop the KKS harbour in the Jaffna peninsula and boost Colombo’s air defences, reports quoting ministers from both countries said this week.

India will explore helping Sri Lanka patrol the seas between the countries, the reports said.

The Indian Government is to resume expansion of the Kankesanthurai harbour in the Jaffna peninsula following the Sri Lankan government informing Delhi that the security situation in the area had “improved considerably,” press reports said Monday.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told the Indian government that the development of the harbour to its full potential will facilitate the transport of supplies to the Jaffna Peninsula, including directly from India.

Sri Lanka’s military has at least three divisions (some 40,000) on the northern peninsula which is cut off from the rest of the island by a huge swathe of territory controlled by the Tamil Tigers.

The Sri Lankan garrison in Jaffna is entirely reliant on precarious sea and air supply lines.

The expansion of KKS harbour and the prospects of resupply from India would greatly assist the Sri Lankan military to sustain its military operations against LTTE held areas in the south of the peninsula.

But while Sri Lanka announced ‘coordinate naval patrolling’ with India’s navy was to take place, India’s Defence Minister A.K. Anthony said India was “examining the idea.”

Last week Indian National Security Advisor M K Narayanan ruled out a unified command for the Lankan Navy and the Indian Coast guard, but indicated that the Indian government was willing to look at proposals for ‘coordinated patrolling.’

Mr. Bogollagama and Indian Defence Minister A.K. Anthony held discussions on the sidelines of the 6th Annual IISS Asian Security Summit in Singapore.

India had said it would continue to strengthen Sri Lanka’s air defence capability and expressed readiness to accede to the island’s request to conduct coordinated patrols of the maritime boundary between the two countries, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying Sunday.

“Modalities for this deployment will be worked out between the two sides,” the Ministry said.

However, Mr. Anthony, speaking on Colombo's long-standing proposal for coordinated patrolling by the two navies said it was put across to Sri Lanka that India "will examine that."

In turn, outlining Colombo's version of this conversation, Mr. Bogollagama noted: "Mr. Antony said they are examining it favourably."

So, it was inferred that an "agreement" on patrolling had now been reached, press reports said.

But there was agreement on air defences, reports said.

''The Indian Defence Minister assured [Mr. Bogollagama] that his government will continue to strengthen Sri Lanka’s air defence capability and noted that an Indian team was currently in Sri Lanka for this purpose,'' the statement said.

Speaking to reporters in Singapore, Mr. Anthony said he had conveyed India's willingness to extend "whatever possible help" to Sri Lanka.

He said the message to Sri Lanka was that "we are with you" on the issues of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and unity of the island state.

Saying that “rise of the LTTEair power in Sri Lanka is of concern to India,” Mr. Anthony said that India "will give Sri Lanka reasonable support for that.”

At the same time, he expressed India’s preference for a "political solution" in Sri Lanka, reports said.

Mr. Bogollagama also met earlier with Britain’s Minister for Armed Forces, Adam Ingram, the reports said.

Mr. Ingram had appreciated the efforts being made by the Government to counter the terrorist threat posed by the LTTE, it said.

Referring to the recent British House of Commons debate on Sri Lanka, Minister Bogollagama told the British Minister that regrettably many who spoke failed to appreciate the complexities of the Sri Lankan situation and that it had not been taken cognizance of by most Members.

Minister Ingram said he would personally appraise Members of Sri Lanka’s perspective on the issue, and urged that the Sri Lankan Government did so as well.

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