India on Monday handed over a Dornier aircraft to Sri Lanka in the presence of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, reaffirming its security ties with the island nation.  

“The security of India and Sri Lanka is enhanced by mutual understanding, mutual trust and cooperation. The gifting of Dornier 228 is India’s latest contribution to this cause,” High Commissioner Gopal Baglay said at the handing over event held on Indian Independence Day and a day before the arrival of a Chinese space and satellite tracking vessel that India has voiced concern over. Despite New Delhi conveying its apprehensions at high levels, including to President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Colombo has cleared the visit of the Chinese vessel, after requesting its arrival be deferred by five days. 

The gifting of the Dornier aircraft to the Sri Lanka Air Force “is of relevance to and a step to meet its requirements for maritime safety and security,” the Indian High Commission said in a tweet, adding: “It is an example of India’s strength adding to the strength of its friends and neighbours, including those in the Indian Ocean Region and the Bay of Bengal, such as Sri Lanka”. 

Last week, the Sri Lanka Air Force announced that the Indian Air Force was gifting it a Dornier 228 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, while noting another aircraft would be donated within two years. The Indian gift was in response to a request from the Sri Lankan government in 2018 for two Dornier Reconnaissance Aircraft to enhance the maritime surveillance capabilities of the island nation, the SLAF said. 

Sri Lanka is a member of the “Colombo Security Conclave”, which began as a trilateral initiative involving India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, and later included Mauritius, for maritime cooperation in the region. “Our national security is deeply intertwined with our collective security aspirations in this region,” National Security Adviser Ajit K. Doval said in March this year, addressing the fifth NSA-level talks of the Conclave held in the Maldives. 

Sri Lanka maintains close defence ties with its regional partners, including India and Pakistan. The Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) ‘Taimur’, which arrived at the Colombo port on an official visit on August 12, set sail from the island after a “successful conduct of a passage exercise” with Sri Lanka Navy Ship (SLNS) ‘Sindurala’, the Sri Lankan Navy said on Monday. 

The author is The Hindu correspondent in Colombo