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    Lanka, Australia to conduct defence exercise Featured

    March 16, 2019

    Acting Australian High Commissioner Jon Philp and Defence Attaché of the Australian High Commission Group Captain Sean Unwin yesterday announced that Sri Lanka and Australia will carry out the largest bi-lateral defence exercise in the history of the two countries from March 23 to 29.This exercise comes as part of Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 or IPE-19, with Sri Lanka, the first stop on a series of visits which will also involve engagements with India, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore.A number of members of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces have been invited to join the Australian forces on the rest of this tour.

    ‘We’re in Sri Lanka because it’s a very important partner for us. We share very strong and common views about future security and strategy for our common region,’ Philp noted, ‘Australia and Sri Lanka share interests in unimpeded trade and secure sea lines of communication and maritime approaches in theIndian Ocean.’

    As a part of this endeavour, four naval vessels and an aircraft will arrive in Sri Lanka carrying over a thousand Air Force, Navy and Army personnel. Activities will take place in Colombo and Trincomalee, with the naval vessels HMAS Canberra and HMAS Newcastle staying in Colombo from March 23 to 30, in addition to the HMAS Paramatta and HMAS Success visiting Trincomalee from March 23 to 27.

    Though there has been a great deal of cooperation on the issue of people smuggling, with this being the main focus of the Australia-Sri Lanka defence relationship in the recent past, it was noted that the activities of IPE-19 would not be focussing specifically on this issue. Instead, Philp noted, ‘the visits overall will include a whole series of activities with a big focus ondisaster assistance planning, multinational navalmanoeuvres and military training activities.’

    IPE-19 will also involve military training for the Sri Lankan tri-forces. Specifically, this will involve maritime surveillance related training activities such as helicopter operations, the sharing of information about how the Australian navy surveils large territorial waters as well as the training of clearance diving teams to dispose of IED’s. Unwin noted that this would allow both countries to better deal with issues of maritime crime. In addition to the naval vessels, Unwin noted that an aircraft will arrive at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in transit to India, providing a further opportunity for the Sri Lankan air force and Sri Lankan navy to engage with Australian forces on maritime surveillance issues.

    When quizzed on the role of China in the region and how this plays into IPE-19 and Australian military strategy, Philp was quick to highlight the positive relationship between the two countries. ‘China is an extremely important partner, a major trading partner, a strategic partner, a country we work with very closely on a lot of things. In other areas we know that China has undertaken some things that not all of our other partners are happy with, but we have a good relationship with China’ Philp noted.

    Last modified on Saturday, 16 March 2019 10:09

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