|Monday, 19 January 2004|
by Ranil Wijayapala
The soon to be signed India - Sri Lanka Defence Co-operation agreement will be finalised by the end of February, Defence Secretary Cyril Herath told the Daily News yesterday.
Herath who had discussions with Indian Defence authorities from January 14 to 16 during his three day visit to India, said yesterday the Indian Defence authorities showed 'keen interest' in finalising the proposed agreement soon.
Chief of Defence Staff and Army Commander Lieutenant General Lionel Balagalle also accompanied the Defence Secretary during his visit to have extensive discussions on increased defence cooperation between the two countries.
"The proposed agreement is largely about the training of Security Forces, sharing of intelligence and defence supplies," Herath added.
He said the signing of the agreement will be decided by the Indian and Sri Lankan governments once the draft agreement is finalised by about the end of February.
After three days of talks, Defence authorities decided to continue further talks to finalise the agreement by the end of February.
Herath had discussions with an Indian Defence delegation headed by Indian Defence Secretary Ajay Prasad.
The Sri Lankan delegation also had discussions with Indian Defence Minister George Fernandez during the visit.
Herath said there was a separate discussion over strengthening the Palaly air base.
"A separate agreement will be signed between the two countries on the rehabilitation of the Palaly airstrip," he added.
Through the improved defence cooperation agreement, Sri Lanka expects to buy helicopters, small transport aircraft and smaller naval vessels for Security Forces.
Though the two countries already have a bilateral agreement on intelligence sharing, training of armed forces personnel and supply of life saving equipment, Sri Lanka wants the cooperation to be broadened to include sale of non-offensive weapons systems by New Delhi.
The Sri Lankan delegation's visit is being seen as a follow-up of initial moves for a broad defence agreement mooted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last October.
Produced by Lake House