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Rishikesh Kumar. Sputnik International
To counter China’s maritime influence in its backyard, India has been strengthening defence ties with countries in and around the Indian Ocean. India’s foreign minister recently assured that India will be a reliable partner for the island nation.
India is ramping up efforts to arm countries bound by the Indian Ocean and has offered to boost Sri Lanka’s naval capabilities. Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said New Delhi is ready to assist Colombo in enhancing its capabilities to meet growing maritime and security challenges in the region.
“India has been strongly committed to the unity, stability, and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. India will be a dependable and reliable partner,” Jaishankar said at a joint press briefing alongside his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena.
Thank FM @DCRGunawardena for his invitation and hospitality. Appropriate that Sri Lanka is my first visit in 2021. Reviewed our cooperarion and will work closely to fulfil the vision of our leaders. pic.twitter.com/x1JLQWfBS8
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) January 6, 2021
As it stands, the majority of vessels in Sri Lanka’s Navy are of Indian origin, including its largest offshore patrol vessel.
However, China has challenged India’s dominance by gifting a frigate to Sri Lanka in 2019. Colombo said the Type 053 frigate is being used for patrol and surveillance missions in deep water, providing maritime security and helping search-and-rescue operations.
Chinese survey and research vessels are no strangers to Sri Lankan waters and have been spotted several time by the Indian Navy.
India voiced concern in 2014 when Sri Lanka allowed two Chinese submarines and a warship to dock at its port in Colombo. Nevertheless, India has since stepped up defence ties with the island nation by training Sri Lankan officers and doing joint exercises.