To outline the contours of India's defence engagement with Sri Lanka during peacetime, Indian Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar arrived here on Monday on a three-day visit.

He met Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and took part in official-level talks between the two sides.

Over the past few years, including in the crucial phases of the war, India had provided know-how and technical support to the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. The Indian defence establishment wants to continue the relationship beyond the civil war years and believes that the Sri Lankan establishment also is deeply interested in a peacetime engagement with the India.

Though Mr. Kumar's visit is expected to generally further cooperation between the two neighbours, the real challenge for the two sides will be to identify and agree on the nature of the relationship.

Early this month, Indian Navy Chief Nirmal Verma was here to take part in the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Sri Lankan Navy. He used the occasion to engage in wide-ranging discussions with his counterpart and others in the Naval and defence establishment here, sources said.

Joint patrolling

The two navies have been in close touch after the Sea Tiger wing of the LTTE was destroyed. From then on, Indian and Sri Lankan Navies have been patrolling the boundaries of their territorial waters. After the many incidents of firing on fishermen, the two navies also tried out joint patrolling to bring down such incidents.

The navies of the two countries have been in constant touch in the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay regions and routinely hold flag meetings to share information and sort outstanding issues. The Eastern Command of the Indian Coast Guard, which patrols part of the waters off the Tamil Nadu coast, also takes an active part in these meetings.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kumar will pay floral tributes at the IPKF memorial here. The Defence Secretary is also scheduled to meet Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.