In a strategic move to engage all South East Asian nations, India has decided to deepen defence ties with Laos — a small but important neighbour in the subcontinent whose President Choummaly Sayasone is currently on a three-day visit to India.
It is learnt that India has decided to set up an Air Force Academy in Lao People’s Democratic Republic. New Delhi has also assured Laos that India will organise the first Suryakiran Air Show in Laos on November 15 this year, sources said. India will also gift 50 parachutes to the Lao Air Force on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Lao Defence Forces in 2009. Sayasone, who met the PM on Wednesday, is understood to have told him that these measures will strengthen the capability of the Lao Air Force.
New Delhi’s defence cooperation with Laos comes in the backdrop of India lending a helping hand to the South East Asian nations in the defence field in the recent years. India has an active defence cooperation with Singapore, whom New Delhi allowed to use its Air Force bases and artillery ranges for practice.
Indian Air Force pilots and technicians are already training Malaysian pilots, weapons system operators and maintenance personnel for induction and operation of their newly-acquired Sukhoi-30 MKM fighter aircraft.
In Myanmar, New Delhi trains officers and supplies small patrolling vehicles and small aircraft. The Indian navy is engaged in defence cooperation with Vietnam. And, naval exercises at a very basic level are being done with Philippines. India and Laos developed a close relationship after Laos — as the country coordinator for India in the ASEAN from 2004 to 2006 — played a crucial role in letting India join the East Asia summit.
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