India yesterday agreed to train East Timor Navy personnel. The agreement was signed during a meeting between Indian Ambassador to East Timor, Bieren Nanda and State Secretary for Defense Julio Tomas Pinto.
In the first phase, 20 out of the entire 75 Naval personnel will be sent to India for training.The training period is to take place every six months. "The length of training time may be extended depending on the MoU," explained Pinto. East Timor has also agreed to have similar training programs with a number of countries in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia.The training of East Timor's security forces is part of a preliminary process to take over from international peacekeeping forces led by Australia. There are currently around 1.300 personnel from Australia and New Zealand placed deployed in Indonesia's former 27th province since the May 2006 riots.On the previous day, Australia announced its plan to reduce the number of its troops in East Timor to 650 personnel beginning next year. According to Australian Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, this measure proves the stability in East Timor has improved.However, tension still seems to be hanging over East Timor following threats issued by former prime minister Mari Alkatiri. Several days ago, the secretary-general of Fretilin, the biggest opposition party in the country, threatened to deploy their supporters to overthrow prime minister Xanana Gusmao.Alkatiri has, from the start, rejected the results of last year's parliamentary elections, which was won by a coalition led by Xanana. Alkatiri is accusing his political opponent of cheating, rendering Xanana's regime as illegal. Xanana did not take it lying down. He warned that anyone who demonstrated in response to Alkatiri would be arrested. Jose Sarito Amaral (Dili)/AP