Army Chief to visit Sri Lanka next month



New Delhi: Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh will travel to Sri Lanka next month to discuss ways to further strengthen military ties between the two countries at a time when political parties in Tamil Nadu are up in arms against any kind of defence cooperation with Colombo.

Gen Bikram Singh is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka in the third week of December and dates are being finalised by the officials of the two sides, Army sources said here.

During the visit, the Army Chief is expected to discuss ways of enhancing cooperation between the two armies in terms of training, military hardware and joint exercises.

He is also likely to discuss the Sri Lankan experience in controlling one of the world's deadliest insurgencies and terrorist organisation LTTE.

Indian and Sri Lankan armies are also expected to hold a joint Army exercise next year and details of cooperation were discussed at the defence talks held late last month between Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa with National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma.

Political parties in Tamil Nadu have been protesting against having any defence ties with Sri Lanka.

Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to immediately halt the training of Sri Lankan officers in Tamil Nadu and send them back.

In July, nine Sri Lankan defence personnel were removed from a training institution in Tambaram to Bangalore after opposition from political parties in the state.

However, despite the opposition from Tamil Nadu political parties, the Defence Ministry has decided that it will continue to train Sri Lankan defence personnel at its facilities and have military ties with it.

The two countries have also decided to hold joint naval exercises next year but to address the sensitivities of the southern states, Defence Minister A K Antony has asked the drills to be held away from there.

PTI