Australia-SL in defence engagement | Sunday Observer

Australia-SL in defence engagement

Australia’s largest ever defence engagement with Sri Lanka which is to unfold this week will not specifically involve training on strategies to counter illegal migration, the Acting Australian High Commissioner Jon Philp said.

Addressing reporters last week, to officially announce the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 (IPE 19) to be held from March 23 to 29 in Sri Lanka, Philp said, “This is a valuable opportunity for both countries to improve cooperation and familiarity with one another’s defence forces and explore opportunities to promote regional stability.”

The exercise, he said, has much to do with disaster assistance planning, multinational naval manoeuvres and military training activities.

The Acting Australian High Commissioner observed, “Sri Lanka is a partner of choice for Australia in the Indo-Pacific and both countries were likeminded in maritime security and Indian ocean issues,” adding that this exercise will help deepen the already strong relations with Sri Lanka as well as other countries joining in this exercise.

“Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper has acknowledged Sri Lanka’s location on a vital maritime corridor in the Indian Ocean,” the Acting High Commissioner disclosed.

The Acting High Commissioner said China is an extremely important trading partner, a strategic partner and his government had a good relationship with the country, when asked how he saw China emerging as a key player in the region.

A Joint Task Group comprising a 1,000 strong force from Australian naval, army and air force personnel and their military assets will visit Sri Lanka as part of the (IPE-19) multinational visit. The Task Force which will conclude its exercise in Sri Lanka on March 29 will proceed to Orissa and Mumbai in India and later Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam before returning to Darwin in ten weeks.

As a part of the exercise, four Royal Australian Naval ships comprising HMAS Canberra, Newcastle, Parramatta and Success will call over at Sri Lankan ports in Colombo and Trincomalee. In addition, Australian Air Force will schedule visits to Mattala to cover the southern region.

A range of activities undertaken with the Sri Lankan armed services on ground and surrounding waters include training exercises for helicopter pilots on ships for maritime operations and maritime surveillence.

“We understand that Sri Lanka is particularly concerned about drug smuggling. Therefore, outside defence relationships, we have relationships on drug smuggling issues as well,” Philp added.

Defence Advisor of the Australian High Commission, Group Captain Sean Unwin said, “The Australia-Sri Lanka defence relationship has grown steadily since 2015 with a strong focus on education, training and counter-people smuggling efforts.”

The upcoming military to military engagement is said to have been designed to promote security and stability in Australia’s near region with shared understanding, enhanced trust and capacity to respond to a spectrum of threats including terrorism and extremism.