India to dispatch 3 warships to shield PM during SAARC meet in Lanka
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
New Delhi, July 16, IRNA
India will not take any chances when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Colombo early next month for the South Asian Association Cooperation (SAARC) summit.
It is looking to dispatch no less than three warships, including two frontline guided-missile destroyers, to Sri Lankan waters as security cover to the PM and his entourage against the much-feared Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
With national security adviser M K Narayanan personally looking into the PM's security at Colombo for the August 2-3 SAARC summit due to the "high threat perception" from LTTE, hectic consultations are in progress between India and Sri Lanka for foolproof security arrangements, especially against LTTE suicide bombers.
With LTTE having both air and naval wings, and even resorting to trained deep-sea divers for underwater suicide missions, Indian security experts are looking to plug all vulnerable points.
Also weighing on the minds of Indian agencies is LTTE's success in using light aircraft for bombing a military airfield near Colombo and being able to avoid detection by radar, Times of India reported here Wednesday quoting sources.
Sources said the contingent of the Special Protection Group, which provides "proximate security" to the PM, will be "much larger" this time compared with other foreign visits.
While the eight-day summit will begin on July 27, the PM will attend it only on the last two days.
Apart from Sri Lankan security personnel, the security cover will e bolstered by the three Indian warships, including a Delhi class destroyer and a Rajput-class destroyer, equipped with Sea King and Chetak helicopters.
There is even talk of Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters being deployed in the skies over Colombo for aerial surveillance of high- security zones like Colombo Fort and Kolpetty areas, apart from strengthening the air defence cover around the summit.
Meanwhile, Indian military bases along the coast-line, like Ramnad in Tamil Nadu, will also be on high alert to meet any contingency during the summit.
India, incidentally, has provided the island nation with automatic 40mm L-70 close range anti-aircraft guns and 'Indra' low-flying detection radars to counter the threat of LTTE aerial strikes, apart from training over 500 Sri Lankan military personnel every year.
The Indian Navy has also stepped up "coordinated" naval patrolling with Sri Lanka along the IMBL (International Maitime Boundary Line) to thwart any LTTE activity on the high seas.
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