Sri Lankan Navy personnel fire a 21-gun salute during Independence Day ceremonies. India is pursuing closer military ties with Sri Lank and has offered to help train sailors at Indian facilities. (Agence France-Presse)
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NEW DELHI — Concerned over the rising presence of the Chinese in the Indian Ocean region, India has offered to boost defense ties with the southern island nation of Sri Lanka.
Indian Navy Chief Adm. D.K. Joshi was on a five-day visit to Sri Lanka last week where he offered to help train Sri Lankan sailors at Indian training establishments.
The visit comes after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month skipped attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, after pressure from political groups in Tamil Nadu who oppose any diplomatic ties with Sri Lanka because of conflicts over the rights of ethnic Lankan Tamils.
It would be against Indian interests to see Sri Lanka tilting toward China and even allow establishment of a base on the island nation, close to India, said Mahindra Singh, retired Indian Army major general and defense analyst.
China has established a presence in ports around India, including Chittagong in Bangladesh, Coco Island in Myanmar, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Pakistan, added Singh.
The UN Human Rights Council in March adopted a US-sponsored resolution regarding human rights violations in Sri Lanka with 25 countries, including India, voting in favor.
China has been able to establish deeper relations with Sri Lanka at the expense of India after the Indian government hardened its stance against Colombo because of domestic political pressure, said a source in the Indian Foreign Ministry. New Delhi now has to work hard to strike better defense ties with the island nation.