Top Indian defence team to visit Colombo

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Colombo, Dec 16: A top-level Indian defence team is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka on Dec 17, mainly to aid the Lankan forces to tackle the LTTE's recently acquired air capabilities.

The team, which includes air and defence combat experts, will be here to review matters relating to ongoing bilateral defence co-operation between the two countries. ''They will have top-level talks with defence and security officials,'' the Sunday Times famous Defence writer, Iqbal Athas, has reported in his weekly column today. India has already equipped air defence systems in Sri Lanka and its Air Force has trained personnel for them despite vehement opposition by some Tamil political forces in its southern State of Tamil Nadu, the Sunday Times newspaper reported here today.

Pakistan has also helped the Sri Lanka Air Force enhance its air capabilities by providing training and refurbishing aircraft among other matters. The arrival of the top Indian defence team comes at a time when Sri Lanka was busy taking all possible steps for the enhancement of its air defence measures after a closer study of acquisition of air capability by the LTTE.

Indian High Commission officials here were not immediately available for comments in this regard.

Although the LTTE is identified to be in the possession of Czech-built Zlin Z-143 light acrobatic trainer aircraft and its four air raids on Sri Lankan military targets had not caused very extensive damages, a greater appreciation of future possibilities have led to enhanced security measures, the report said.

''Even Indian defence authorities had staged an exercise codenamed, 'Operation Dakshin Prahar' in neighbouring Tamil Nadu early this week to protect oil tankers, nuclear installations and ports against air raids particularly from what has been billed as 'non-state actors' in the region,'' said Mr Iqbal Athas the famous Defence writer who also writes for popular Jane's Defence magazine.

Notably, the LTTE is the only non-state actor in the region possessing air capability.

In the late part of October this year, a group of 21 Black Tigers carried out a ''Commando style'' land-air joint attack on a key Air Force base in the north-central Anuradhapura district, destroying at least eight aircraft of the Lankan Air Force.

Within a week, the Sri Lankan Air Force hit back the rebels by killing its political wing head SP Thamilselvan and six others in an aerial strike. Late Thamilselvan is the senior most cadre to be killed and was posthumously promoted as 'Brigadier' by the rebel chief.


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