NEW DELHI: Indian Air Force Chief, Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria on Wednesday arrived in Colombo to take part in celebrations and ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF).

This is Bhadauria’s second visit to a key neighbour of India. Last week the Indian Air Force Chief had visited Bangladesh. The two visits coupled with those of the Indian Army chief Manoj Mukund Naravane’s trips to Nepal, Myanmar, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, signals a new dynamic in India’s military diplomacy.

The visit comes close on the heels of Sri Lanka first cancelling a trilateral contract with India and Japan to develop a container terminal at Colombo port and then clearing a proposal to develop another terminal with the same partners at the same port. The cancellation of the pact last month to develop the East Container Terminal was seen as having strained India-Lanka ties.

An IAF contingent comprising of Suryakiran and Sarang aerobatic display teams and India’s indigenous fighter aircraft the TEJAS (LCA) Light Combat Aircraft will be taking part in the events to mark the SLAF anniversary. The IAF contingent arrived in Colombo on 27 February, a statement from the Indian Air Force said.

During the two day visit, Bhadauria “is scheduled to interact with various dignitaries and the heads of Services of the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka. IAF and SLAF have had consistent cooperative exchanges over the years and interact regularly through Headquarter level Air Staff talks to share valuable experiences in the fields of ground and flying training, professional military education, HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) and operational best practices. Recent years have also seen the two Air Forces increase inter-personnel engagements through exchange visits of serving personnel and families to both countries," the IAF statement said.

“The presence of the CAS during the inaugural day of the Air Show reinforces the strength of IAF-SLAF ties. The visit will further strengthen the existing cooperative process and open up newer avenues of mutual interest," it added.