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Ind-Sri Lanka in army staff talks even as relations strained

By Anita

New Delhi, Jun 30: Even as Indian fishermen continue to be captured by Sri Lankan Navy personnel and the looming issue of Sri Lankan Tamils being victimized by the Sri Lankan army during the LTTE wipe-out, the cases are getting sidelined when India and Sri Lanka will engage in the first Army-to-Army staff talks.

The talks that kicked off on Wednesday is intended to boost bilateral military cooperation through joint military exercises and training programmes. The talks were held between Sri Lankan military secretary Major-General HCP Goonetilleke and Indian Army's additional director general (international cooperation) Major-General I P Singh. They will discuss the programmes to be carried by both parties next year.

It has to be recalled that the Indian army was instrumental in the training of thousands of Sri Lankan army personnel on counter-insurgency, in jungle warfare from the school at Vairengte (Mizoram) and from the School of Artillery at Devlali (Maharashtra). They were also rendered training in specialised naval courses in gunnery, navigation, communication and anti-submarine warfare.

An official source was quoted as saying, “Such interactions will result in a more robust and pragmatic defence cooperation." India engages in army-to-army staff level talks with only nine other countries that include Israel, France, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, US, UK and Bangladesh.

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