India, Sri Lanka and Maldives Hold Joint Exercise On Maritime Security

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The exercise comes after a cargo ship went up in flames near Colombo Port in May. File

Colombo:

Top defence officials from India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives participated in a virtual trilateral table top exercise where they discussed best practices and procedures for countering common transnational maritime crime like curbing narcotics and assistance in maritime search and rescue.

The two-day exercise, TTX-2021, from July 14 to July 15 aimed at enhancing mutual understanding and exchange of best practices procedures for countering common transnational crime was coordinated by the Maritime Warfare Centre, Mumbai, the Indian High Commission here said.

The exercise focused on maritime crimes like curbing narcotics and assistance in maritime search and rescue in the region.

The exercise gains additional relevance in light of the successful Operation Sagar Aaraksha 2 executed in support of MV X-Press Pearl, the Singapore-flagged cargo ship that caught fire on May 21, the mission said.

Cargo ship MV X-Press Pearl was carrying 1,486 containers of chemicals and cargo when it went up in flames near the Colombo Port.

The Sri Lankan Navy, Airforce and the Indian Coast Guard jointly doused the fire in an operation that took days. However, the ship sank off the country’s coast on June 17.

Apart from the 325 metric tonnes of fuel in its tanks, the ship was loaded with 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid. Environmentalists have dubbed it as one the worst ecological disasters in Sri Lanka’s history.

The Indian Navy vessel is currently surveying the sea route safety around the Colombo port.

“TTX-2021 exemplifies the deep trilateral engagement between India-Maldives-Sri Lanka which has strengthened immensely in maritime domain over the past years. Interaction between the three neighbouring countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has also grown significantly in recent years, in consonance with India”s policy of ‘Neighbourhood First” and vision of ‘Security and Growth for all in the Region (SAGAR),” the release said.

The exercise came as a follow-up to India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives agreeing to focus on ways of enhancing maritime security cooperation in the IOR at the fourth National Security Adviser (NSA)-level trilateral meeting held in Colombo in November last year with the participation of India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and the top defence brass from Sri Lanka and the Maldives.