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* Indian Army chief to visit Sri Lanka next month
Sun, Nov 4, 2012, 08:41 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Nov 04, Colombo: The Chief of Indian Army General Bikram Singh will visit Sri Lanka next month to hold discussions on further strengthening the bilateral defence ties.

Indian Army Commander is scheduled to visit Colombo in the third week of December and the dates are being finalized by the officials of the two sides, India's official news agency PTI reported.

The Army chief's visit amid the strong opposition from the Tamil Nadu political parties against any defence cooperation with Sri Lanka is aimed at finding ways to enhance cooperation between the two armies in training, military hardware and joint exercises.

Reportedly the visiting military leader is also likely to discuss the Sri Lanka's experience in controlling the Tamil Tiger terrorist organization LTTE.

The two armies are also expected to hold a joint Army exercise next year and details of cooperation have been discussed during the visit of Sri Lanka's Defense Secretary Gotabhaya to New Delhi last month.

Rajapaksa held talks with the Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma during his visit.

The two countries have also decided to hold joint naval exercises next year in Indian waters but given the sentiment of Tamil Nadu towards cooperating with Sri Lanka military the Indian defense ministry has advised its Navy to hold the exercises away from the coasts of four southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka.

Key constituent of India's central government, DMK led by M. Karunanidhi yesterday reiterated its opposition to giving training to Sri Lankan defence personnel in India.

Political parties in Tamil Nadu, including AIADMK and DMK, have strongly opposed training Sri Lankan defense personnel in the state.

In July this year nine Sri Lankan Air Force personnel training in the Tambaram Air Force station in Chennai on a nine month-long training program were moved to Bangalore after the Chief Minister and Tamil political parties staged protests.

However, the Indian government said it will continue to provide training to Sri Lankan defense personnel at India's defense facilities despite the opposition from the Tamil parties in the state of Tamil Nadu.



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