Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari on Tuesday met Sri Lanka's top military leaders and exchanged views on several matters of bilateral importance, while recalling the longstanding friendship between the two countries, amid China's growing influence in the island nation.
Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari, who arrived here on Monday on a four-day official visit to Sri Lanka, called on the Commander of the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF), Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana at Air Force Headquarters here.
As part of India’s commitment towards capacity building of Sri Lanka Armed Forces, Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force presented AN-32 propellers to ensure high operational readiness of the aircraft held with Sri Lanka Air Force.
"Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari #CAS @IAF_MCC donated AN-32 propellers to Commander @airforcelk at Katunayake Air Base on behalf of Government of India. Highlights India’s resolute commitment towards capacity building of SriLanka Armed Forces," the the Indian High Commission in Colombo tweeted.
The Chief of the Air Staff is visiting Sri Lanka at the invitation of Air Marshal Pathirana. He was received upon arrival by the Commanding Officer SLAF Station Colombo, Air Commodore Suresh Fernando, and was presented a Guard of Honour which was conferred by the Colour Squadron of the SLAF, Sri Lanka's News 1st channel reported.
He also met with the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera at the Navy Headquarters, Colombo.
Upon his arrival, he was welcomed at the portals of the Navy Headquarters in compliance with naval tradition.
"Visit of Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari #CAS @IAF_MCC to Sri Lanka: Day 2 engagements in the morning. Meeting with Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana, Commander @airforcelk. Meeting with Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, Commander @srilanka_navy," the Indian mission tweeted.
Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari also met with Maj. Gen Senarath Yapa, Commandant National Defence College, Sri Lanka and delivered a talk on the transformation of the Indian Air Force to the senior Sri Lankan Armed Forces officers attending the College, it added.
He also gifted books worth 10 million Sri Lankan rupees to the prestigious college.
During the discussions, the two sides exchanged views on several matters of bilateral importance, whilst recalling the longstanding friendship between the two countries.
After his arrival here on Monday, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari sought the blessings of Lord Buddha at the sacred Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo.
The visit will enhance the existing professional ties and bonds of mutual cooperation between both nations, an official statement said.
"The visit symbolises strong relations and close cooperation between the two friendly neighbours, with Sri Lanka being accorded the status of 'Priority One' partner by India. Underlining the strong bonds of friendship between the two services,” the Indian mission said in a statement Monday.
"The visit of Chief of Air Staff, Indian Air Force would strengthen the existing relations between the two countries and facilitate discussions on common security challenges and enhancing capacity and capability building initiatives towards ensuring Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), as propounded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi," the statement said.
In February 2021, at the invitation of the Commander, Sri Lanka Air Force, a 22 aircraft contingent of the Indian Air Force participated in the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Sri Lanka Air Force.
In addition, the Indian Air Force was the first responder by deploying its assets expeditiously for providing 12T medical supplies in May 2020 and 100T nano fertilisers in November 2021.
In August last year, Vice Chief of Indian Navy Vice Admiral S N Ghormade paid a two-day visit to Sri Lanka and handed over a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft to the island nation’s Navy to further boost bilateral defence partnership.
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe was present at the handover ceremony which took place as India celebrated the 75th anniversary of its independence. The ceremony to hand over the aircraft also happened a day before Yuan Wang 5, a Chinese missile and satellite tracking ship docked at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port.
India's concerns come amidst China's growing influence in Sri Lanka - which is currently struggling to come out of a severe economic crisis.
Beijing has loaned billions of dollars to Sri Lanka as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build infrastructure in Asia. However, some of the infrastructure projects under the BRI have not worked in Sri Lanka's favour.
In 2017, for example, China Merchants Port Holdings took a majority share with a 99-year lease in Hambantota port - where the Yuan Wang 5 was docked - after Colombo struggled to repay the debt incurred to build it.