Sri Lanka rules out defence pact with Pakistan

Sri Lanka has firmly ruled out any defence cooperation pact with Pakistan.

Last Updated: Dec 08, 2010, 11:53 AM IST

Colombo: Sri Lanka has firmly ruled out
any defence cooperation pact with Pakistan although they
maintained very strong military ties during the height of the
ethnic war in the country.

Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the powerful defence secretary,
said the government did not discuss the possibility of a
Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) during the recent four-day
visit by Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

"President Mahinda Rajapakse hadn’t discussed any
defence-related proposal with his Pakistani counterpart," the
privately-run Island newspaper today quoted the Defence
Secretary, who is also the president`s younger brother.

The Island said the defence secretary dismissed what
he called unsubstantiated media reports on a post-war DCA
between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

However, a joint statement issued by Pakistan and Sri
Lanka at the end of Zardari`s visit last month said they had
agreed to promote a dialogue on, among other things, defence
and security issues.

Zardari, who held closed-door talks with President
Rajapakse, discussed increasing trade and defence cooperation,
the president`s office said on November 28.

It gave no details of the defence cooperation, but
Pakistan was a main supplier of arms and ammunition when
government forces were locked in combat with Tamil Tiger
rebels.

Pakistan provided heavy weapons that were used to
crush the Tamil Tigers in May last year which brought an end
to their 37-year violent struggle for a Tamil homeland in Sri
Lanka.

Gotabhatya told the Sri Lankan daily that his
brother`s government had not entered into any DCA during the
fighting with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),
though the country acquired arms, ammunition and equipment
from several countries, including Pakistan.

"In the aftermath of our victory over the LTTE in May
last year, we`ll have to review our defence needs and
equipment," he said.

"For over 30 years, we have been buying armaments
from different sources depending on our requirement, financial
terms and the availability," the secretary said.

Commenting on Opposition allegations of increased
defence spending after the war ended last year, Rajapakse said
armed forces could not be disbanded or drastically reduced
although the LTTE posed no conventional military threat.

The government allocated Rs. 215 billion (USD 1.92
billion for defence for 2011, or about one fifth of the
national budget, the paper said. Gotabhatya said that country had no option but to keep
defence spending high because of hefty instalment payments on
military hardware bought over the years.

The 200,000-member strong army would take the lion’s
share of the defence budget, the Defence Secretary said.

The army will absorb just over half of the entire
defence spending to maintain its personnel. He said that
re-positioning of security forces in a post-war era was a
costly business as new bases and cantonments were needed to
accommodate troops in the Northern and Eastern provinces.

"This is a very high priority. Unlike during the war,
troops cannot be given makeshift shelter," he said.

PTI