Arrival of Gen. Bikram Singh

( December 20, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Indian Army Chief, General Bikram Singh, is in the island on a three-day-visit, to strengthen defence relations between the two countries. It is noteworthy that the visit takes place nearly two months after another significant defence officer, the Chinese Defence Chief, arrived in the island for high level talks.

Some Indian political analysts have warned that if India stops providing training for Lankan military personnel, the Sri Lankan Government would seek assistance from China and the move would endanger India’s regional security, as this would allow China to make Sri Lanka a hub to stabilize its regional interest.

It is no secret that the two regional superpowers have vested interest in Sri Lanka, having contributed significantly to defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and ending a 30-year war that near depleted the country of its resources, and exacted a heavy toll in terms of lives lost.
India even went to the extent of deploying its Security Forces in Sri Lanka, who arrived in the guise of peace keepers and stayed on for two years from 1987 to 1989, until they were literally kicked out by then President Ranasinghe Premadasa. During this period many of the ‘Jawans’ tasked with defeating the LTTE lost their lives, but India walked away with a signed Indo-Lanka peace accord.
Though the Indian attempt to defeat the LTTE and usher in peace to the beleaguered North and East went awry, the initiative paved way for Sri Lanka to realize the importance of devolving powers regionally.
By virtue of being our immediate neighbour, India has always been the first to respond when Sri Lanka faced problems, be it man made insurgencies or natural calamities. This response was evidenced, when for the first time since the withdrawal of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) in 1989, Indian troops came to Sri Lanka to assist the flood victims in the Sabragamuwa Province, a couple or more years ago.
However, in recent months the Indian defence sector has come under heavy flak especially in Tamil Nadu, for providing training facilities for Lankan security personnel. Not so long ago, the State of Tamil Nadu demanded that the Indian Central Government cancel all training provided to Lankan armed forces personnel. The State Government even succeeded in stopping the training provided for Lankan personnel in its military installations.
Tamil Nadu’s opposition to the training programmes notwithstanding, the Indian Government has maintained that its military training for Lankan Defence personnel would continue without any hindrance. And this stance was reiterated in the Lok Sabha recently.
Some Indian political analysts have warned that if India stops providing training for Lankan military personnel, the Sri Lankan Government would seek assistance from China and the move would endanger India’s regional security, as this would allow China to make Sri Lanka a hub to stabilize its regional interest.
It is no secret that both regional superpowers are putting a lot of effort into being in the good books of Sri Lanka, in order to stabilize their regional security. However, Sri Lanka’s relations with Indian have of recent not been as cordial as its relations with China.
A disconcerting thorn cropping up ever so frequently, especially since the end of the war, is the encroachment of Indian fishermen into the Northern waters. This issue is compounded by the situation in Tamil Nadu, where the South Indians continue to agitate over the plight of the Tamils in Jaffna, even as warnings have surfaced over possibilities of the LTTE regrouping again in Tamil Nadu.
During his stay in Sri Lanka, Gen. Singh, who would have been midway through his military career during the IPKF presence in Sri Lanka will also pay tribute to his countrymen at the monument erected in Colombo, in memory of their sacrifice for the cause of peace.
In a broader context, Gen. Singh’s visit to Sri Lanka is significant in many ways, not only with regard to regional security, but also in helping overcoming the many ‘hiccups’ that have made the Indo-Lanka relations a rough ride, especially in terms of training Lankan military personnel in India and the fishermen’s disputes in the Northern waters.
India’s focus may at present be in stabilizing its region security in Sri Lanka. But as far as Sri Lanka is concerned, India is an important ally geographically, compared to other countries in the region, and Gen. Bikram Singh’s visit paves the way to further cement the relations between the two countries.
 (Ceylon Today)

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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