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India the first choice; New Delhi’s reluctance led to approach other countries: Lanka

New Delhi, Sat, 02 Jun 2007 Sadiq Ali

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June 02: Within twenty four of national security advisor M K Narayan’s remarks refraining Sri Lankan from procuring arms from China and Pakistan, Lanka has made clear that India is the first choice.

Reacting to the latest statement of Narayan, minister of plantation Industries and senior vice president of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party, D M Jayaratne said that Colombo was compelled to transact with China and Pakistan to fulfill its military requirements.

While proposing that New Delhi is ready to supply the military equipment to Colombo Narayan had emphasized that only “necessary” not “offensive” equipments will be supplied. Strong emphasis on the words had led to rift between two nations which forced Lanka to approach other countries.

New Delhi’s policy towards the Island nation always remained according to the wishes of southern states because of the overwhelming sympathy for the Tamils living in Sri Lanka. LTTE, a Tamil guerilla organization, is fighting a never three decade old war with Sinhalese majority Lanka. Tamils demand separate homeland carved out of the northern areas of the nation.

While explaining the Lankan move towards China and Pakistan, arch rivals of India, D M Jayaratne has said the island nation, whose forces have been battling the Tamil Tiger rebels in the troubled northeast, had to purchase the right kind of weapons to fulfill its needs and therefore had to look for those who prepared to provide them to Sri Lanka.

"India is our closest friend. It is essential for us to maintain that status. But when it comes to weapons we are compelled to transact with countries which actually fulfill our country's military requirement," Jayaratne was quoted as saying in the private Daily Mirror on Saturday.

His remarks followed National Security Advisor’s recent remarks in Chennai that Sri Lanka should not seek weapons from Pakistan or China, but should come to India for its requirements and will supply necessary equipments.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's Buddhist monk's party, or the JHU, strongest ally of President Mahinda Rajapakse, insisted that Colombo should give priority to its needs and should buy weapons from anyone it wished.

"India should realise that Sri Lanka has the right to transact with any nation. However if India comes up with a favourable deal, India will always be the first choice since it is our neighbour," JHU spokesman Udaya Gammanpila was quoted by media.

Controversy over military equipments started when Colombo approached Beijing to replace the “faulty” radar supplied by New Delhi. Keeping in view the strategic importance of alliance building and to keep Pakistan and China away from its traditional partners, New Delhi has had to take immediate steps or it will loose influence like that of Bangladesh.

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