Sri Lanka drops plan to buy fighters from Pak after India objects

New Delhi has opposed SLAF plans to buy the J-17s on the ground that Sri Lanka does not need fighter aircraft.

Written by Nirupama Subramanian | Chandigarh | Published:January 10, 2016 4:40 am
JF 17 Thunder fighter aircraft, sri lanka pakistan defence deal, lanka pak defence deal, lanka pak JF 17s deal, sri lanka news, india news, The Pakistani media were reporting that the deal for JF-17s would be signed during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s three-day visit to Colombo which ended Wednesday. (Source: Reuters file photo)

Stiff opposition from India has forced Sri Lanka to drop plans, at least for now, to buy JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft from Pakistan.

The Sunday Express has learnt that New Delhi shot off a diplomatic missive a few weeks ago to Colombo on why it should not buy the JF-17 Thunder, including a negative technical assessment of the aircraft. It was also pointed out that the country’s defence requirements did not need fighters.

While questions were raised in Sri Lanka too about the reported $400-million deal, India’s forceful opposition, conveyed through a non-paper, was one of the likely reasons that made Sri Lanka drop the plan for now.

The Pakistani media were reporting that the deal for JF-17s would be signed during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s three-day visit to Colombo which ended Wednesday.

Despite its own financial crunch, Pakistan was also said to be ready to extend a line of credit to Sri Lanka for the aircraft.

On Tuesday, Sharif and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the Defence Minister, signed agreements under eight heads in Colombo, but the sale of aircraft was not one of them.

The Indian government delivered the non-paper — diplomatic parlance for a white sheet of paper without a letterhead or signature — to Colombo at the highest levels about three weeks ago after reports that Pakistan was seriously engaging the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) on the Chinese fighter aircraft to replace the SLAF’s ageing fleet of Israeli Kfirs and MiG-27s.

Pakistan had been pushing for the sale of 10 to 12 JF-17s, each priced about $35 million. Talk of the deal gained ground after a visit to Pakistan by SLAF chief Gagan Bulathsinhala last November. He was invited to send a team to assess the aircraft at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra.

Kamra is where the PAC and China’s Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) co-produce the aircraft. But defence experts believe that the aircraft are more or less only assembled at Kamra from readymade Chinese kits. Taking up the Pakistani invitation, a team of Sri Lankan Air Force officials visited Kamra to test the aircraft and run simulation tests.

New Delhi has opposed SLAF plans to buy the J-17s on the ground that Sri Lanka does not need fighter aircraft. It is six years since the war against the LTTE ended. Since then, Sri Lanka’s defence spending has increased. For 2016, it is an estimated $3 billion.

Sri Lankan sources said India also put forth a technical argument that the Russian engines of the JF-17 were not the best, that even China does not use these aircraft. Earlier, some Sri Lankan reports had said India had offered its own Tejas to the SLAF instead.

India is also concerned that the deal, if it goes through, will enable the PAC, and perhaps even the CAC, to set up a facility in Sri Lanka for maintenance and training, and increase and widen contacts between Pakistan and Chinese security forces and Sri Lanka.

In 2014, the then Sri Lankan government had cleared a proposal for China to set up a maintenance-cum-servicing facility for its aircraft that are part of the Sri Lankan fleet in Trincomalee. The SLAF has in it fleet the Chengdu F-7 fighter aircraft, and the Y-12 and MA60 transporters. India had raised concerns then about the plan and the Sri Lankan government had said it would be manned only by SLAF personnel. With the change in government, that plan was shelved.

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  1. F
    Jan 10, 2016 at 9:43 pm
    India may be trying to sell its FLYING COFFINS MIGs or may be forcing SL to buy the same coffins from bedloved Russia. Or may be to sell Druv helis that was cancelled by Ecuador after killing few pilots and pengers there. Or Thejas that was indigenously designed to kill indigenous people.
    1. T
      Jan 10, 2016 at 2:35 am
      There is some who eulogizes himself by planting such stories. He must be paid by another set of s.
      1. M
        Jan 10, 2016 at 9:51 pm
        SL is our friendly neighbor. If Sri Lanka wants to attack any country it just need to send an order to India. India will always be at the service of Sri Lanka to supply its flying machines and pilots in a matter of seconds. Alternatively SL can ask China to occupy a few km sq of India's territory and force India to send its flying coffins, so that SL does not have to buy one, I meant COFFINS.
        1. K
          Jan 10, 2016 at 2:33 pm
          Who the heck are you s to decide what we should buy for our country.
          1. R
            Jan 10, 2016 at 2:33 am
            India expects to sell all its KILLER MACHINES MIG-21's to Sri Lanka, or what? That would save a few Indian pilot lives. But SL is not stupid, BUT INDIANS ARE!
            1. L
              Jan 10, 2016 at 2:39 am
              India-local, a very local, thug!
              1. H
                Harry Achari
                Jan 10, 2016 at 8:56 am
                SL has a long history along with us even before Buddhism. It is peaceful and politically neutral. It has natural beauty and fertility. Our relation is enduring and brotherly. If something happens them we are the first to help them thanks to its geographically closeness. Now stan and China wants to use them as a battle ground. They try to manite them creating a Indiaphobia. SL is not a baby like these countries think. It has responsibilities like we do. Try to build better economy than acquiring weapons as it has no enemies. Now new Sri Sirisena is very intelligent man who thinking about economy. If SL is buying Chinese or stan weapon it means they have influence to SL. stan don't love a kaffir SL as China is no ones friend. We on the other side are prepared to SL and Maldives and we have proved during Tsunami. If SL wants weapons it better buy from Russia or the west or India ( who is an immediate neighbor). I am sure Chinese and stan don't care about its existence and they drag SL like a cow to fight against its closer neighbor. I don't think SL wants it to be their slave
              2. H
                Harry Achari
                Jan 10, 2016 at 10:37 am
                Tejas is flying for longer than a decade. Not a single crash occurred. Only fact is that IAF had higher demand. It doesn't choose so easily for its fleet so tejas is still on the process of induction. But it is still not a potent like su 30 mki. It still can compete jf 17 with its advanced equipments. Jf 17 is not modern as tejas. In fight tejas can outgun jf 17. But in a dog fight it will lose against the latter. Who doing dog fight in the modern time. Jf can be shot before it come closer for dog fight
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