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Delhi wakes up to neighbours' influence on Sri Lanka, appoints Deputy Defence Officer in Colombo

Wednesday, 20 August 2014 - 7:50am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

In view of the increasing influence of China and Pakistan on Sri Lanka, India has beefed its military presence at its High Commission in Colombo. For the first time, an army officer has been appointed in the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka.

The move has gained significance as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Colombo in the next couple of months. However, Modi's schedule has not yet been finalised by the government. After the prime minister's visit, National Security Advisor Ajit Kumar Doval too will also visit Colombo to enhance strategic relations between the two nations.

Col Gurinder S Klaire has been sent to Colombo as deputy defence advisor to assist defence advisor Capt Prakash Gopalan. Traditionally, defence advisors in the Colombo mission have been only from the navy.

Sri Lanka's proximity with China and Pakistan has irked New Delhi of late, according to sources in South Block, which houses the defence ministry. The Chinese government recently appointed a defence attache in Sri Lanka for the first time.

The biggest-ever Chinese involvement in Sri Lanka would be the Chinese Government's entry into building an aircraft repair and maintenance facility in Trincomalee for its air force and that "disturbs" the 1987 India-Sri Lanka Accord, regarding the military use of Trincomalee.

Moreover, Chinese footprints into various infrastructure development projects in Sri Lanka, including the development of strategically important Hambantota port, has attracted considerable attention from India.

Sri Lanka has witnessed several high profile military leaders from China and Pakistan in the recent past. In April, Pakistan's Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff Committee, General Rasheed Mahmood, also visited Sri Lanka. In May, the Chief of Staff of the Chinese People's Armed Police, Lt Gen Niu Zhizong had met senior commanders of the Lankan army and invited maximum number of officers to Beijing for anti-terrorism training mission, sources said.

The last Indian defence visit to Lanka was in 2012 by IAF's Chief Marshal Arup Raha to hold joint military and air exercises.

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