NEW DELHI: India on Monday handed over a Dornier-228 maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to Sri Lanka to reaffirm bilateral security ties, even as Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed that the two countries may at times have “differences” but they should not be allowed to become “disputes”.
The handing-over ceremony at Colombo, in which Indian Navy vice chief Vice Admiral Satish N Ghormade and envoy Gopal Baglay were also present, comes just a day before the Chinese research vessel Yuan Wang 5 docks at the southern port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka for a week.
Amid Indian concerns about the Chinese ballistic missile and satellite-tracking ship in the region, Sri Lanka had initially asked China to defer the vessel’s docking at Hambantota on August 11. But then in a U-turn, Colombo allowed the docking of the Chinese “spy” vessel at the port from August 16 to 22.
At the ceremony, while thanking India and PM Modi for the Dornier aircraft that will boost bilateral cooperation in maritime surveillance, Wickremesinghe said the two countries had “similar viewpoints” on most issues. “But being two states and governments, there are also times when we have differences which should not become disputes,” he said.
Baglay, in turn, said the security of India and Sri Lanka is enhanced by mutual understanding, trust and cooperation. The gifting of the Dornier aircraft 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”, he added.
Sri Lanka in 2018 had requested India for two Dornier-228 aircraft to enhance its maritime surveillance capabilities. The aircraft handed over on Monday is from the existing fleet of the Indian Navy, which has also provided training to Sri Lankan pilots and technicians to operate it. The two new Dorniers are being manufactured by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics, with the first one slated to be handed over to Sri Lanka next year.

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