India, Sri Lanka Commission Maritime Rescue Centre to Boost Security Ties

India and Sri Lanka June 20, commissioned an initiative key to maritime security cooperation between the two countries and built on a grant of $6 million from New Delhi. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) was commissioned by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe during the former’s day-long visit to the island country.

Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar’s first visit since reappointed

Jaishankar was in Colombo on 20 June for his first stand-alone bilateral visit since being reappointed India’s external affairs minister earlier this month. The MRCC boosts maritime security in a region where the rivalry between New Delhi and Beijing has increased in recent years. A sub-centre of the MRCC has been constructed in the Sri Lankan city of Hambantota, where a large port was constructed with aid from Beijing and leased in 2017 to a firm whose majority owner is China Merchant Ports (CMPorts). CMPorts maintains an 87 percent stake in the Hambantota International Port Group, while the remaining stake is owned by the Sri Lankan government.

  • It comprises a main centre at the Colombo Naval Headquarters, a sub-centre in Hambantota, and unmanned installations in strategic locations across Sri Lanka’s coastline, said a readout from the Sri Lankan President’s media division.
  • New Delhi has increasingly looked to strengthen its footprint in the Indian Ocean Region, and Sri Lanka specifically. In 2022, India had gifted the island nation a Dornier aircraft and trained Sri Lankan Navy and Air Force personnel to operate it.

Previously signed Agreement

In 2022, multiple agreements were signed, which included gifting Sri Lanka a floating dock. In December 2023, a keel-laying ceremony was held for the dock, which can accommodate vessels up to 115 metres long with a lifting capacity of up to 4,000 tonnes. India’s diplomatic outreach to Sri Lanka is a part of its SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) vision and its Neighbourhood First policy. The partnership saw Sri Lanka in December 2023 institute a moratorium on Chinese research vessels docking at its ports. New Delhi has been concerned over these research vessels for their capabilities of collecting data that can be used for military purposes. During his visit to Colombo, Jaishankar also held meetings with the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry, Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

abhishekshukla

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