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US seventh fleet to hold joint naval exercises with Sri Lankan navy for the first time

The first ever US-Sri Lanka naval exercise ‘Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training’ aka ‘CARAT 2017’ will take place in Oct at Trincomalee. The US Seventh Fleet will conduct the exercise.

Having handed over Hambantota port to a Chinese company for development and considerable presence of Chinese companies in Colombo port expansion plan, the proposed military exercise with US seventh fleet is seen as a balancing act by Colombo.

Acting US Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G Wells yesterday announced the planned exercise when she lectured on ‘Indo-Pacific Regional Architecture’ on the second day of Indian Ocean Conference 2017 at Temple Trees in Colombo according to Sri Lankan media reports.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj was among foreign dignitaries present on the occasion.

The US embassy in a statement that dealt with US role as ‘Indo-Pacific’ power quoted Wells as having said: "Expanding naval cooperation is another priority for the United States.  The U.S.-India-Japan MALABAR Naval exercise in July was our largest and most complex to date, involving over ten thousand personnel."

"We are also expanding our navy-to-navy relationship with Sri Lanka, with our first-ever naval exercise set for October.  With Bangladesh, we value our continued engagement through regular exercises like the Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training series."

India holds regular naval exercises with Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Navy Headquarters Spokesman Commander Lankanatha Dissanayake said the five-day exercise would begin on Oct 2. Littoral combat ship USS Coronado would be involved, Commander Dissanayake said, adding that surface, underwater, air and jungle warfare were planned.

As the premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia, CARAT provides a regional venue to address shared maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability among participating forces and develop sustained naval partnerships with nations across South and Southeast Asia (SF).


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