Sri Lanka expressed gratitude to India for its assistance in safeguarding the island nation’s airspace and maritime territory, including its exclusive economic zone, through coastal and maritime surveillance operations. Sagala Ratnayaka, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s senior advisor on national security, conveyed this appreciation while accepting a successor Indian Navy Dornier aircraft handed over to the Sri Lanka Air Force.
The maritime surveillance aircraft, Dornier-228, was provided to replace a previous one that was returned to India for scheduled maintenance after being given by India a year ago. The gesture followed a bilateral security discussion in January 2018, where India offered the aircraft for a span of two years free of cost.
The gift of the aircraft is seen as a sign of India’s commitment to strengthening its security ties with Sri Lanka, particularly in the context of China’s growing influence in the region. India is concerned about China’s increasing military presence in the Indian Ocean, and it sees Sri Lanka as a key partner in its efforts to counter Chinese influence.
The gift of the aircraft can also be seen as a way for India to enhance its own maritime surveillance capabilities in the region. The Dornier-228 is a capable aircraft that can be used to monitor shipping traffic, detect illegal fishing, and track potential threats. This will give India a better understanding of the maritime situation in the region and help it to respond more effectively to any threats.
However, the gift of the aircraft could also be seen as a provocation by China. China is already suspicious of India’s growing influence in Sri Lanka, and it could see the gift of the aircraft as a sign that India is trying to encircle China in the Indian Ocean. This could lead to increased tensions between India and China, which could have a destabilizing effect on the region.
Ultimately, the implications of India gifting a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft to Sri Lanka will depend on how China reacts. If China takes the gift as a provocation, it could lead to increased tensions between the two countries. However, if China takes the gift in stride, it could be seen as a sign of India’s commitment to peace and stability in the region.