(AFP) – Mar 3, 2008
NEW DELHI (AFP) — Sri Lankan army chief G. S. Fonseka flew to Kashmir at the start of a visit to India during which he will hold talks on possible arms imports, officials said.
Fonseka flew to the 440-kilometre (378-mile) Line of Control that divides the Indian and Pakistani zones of Kashmir and met commanders manning the militerised de facto border, defence ministry officials said.
Fonseka, who arrived here Sunday on a six-day trip, will meet his Indian counterpart Deepak Kapoor, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and others for talks on "possible cooperation" on Tuesday, an Indian defence ministry official said.
"Fonseka will also meet defence secretary V. K. Singh and he is expected to seek possible cooperation from India in Sri Lanka's fight against the Tamil separatist rebels," the official said on condition he is not named.
Since the beginning of the year, at least 1,779 rebels and 99 Sri Lankan soldiers have been killed in fighting by one official count.
Aid workers in Sri Lanka say more than 170 civilians have also perished during the same period.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said Sunday Colombo had no plans to halt military operations against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting for a homeland since 1972.
Colombo plans to spend 1.57 billion dollars for defence in calendar 2008, up 20 percent from last year, according to figures presented to the island's parliament.
News reports say India, which has provided a radar system to Sri Lanka's military, could offer to upgrade Colombo's air defences to counter the LTTE's new-found capability to launch aerial attacks.
Indian experts said the war-racked island is also trawling for light helicopters, combat vehicles and other infantry systems to arm its troops with modern weaponry.
Spiralling military spending and concerns over the island's human rights record have seen several countries withhold bilateral aid.
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