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Why a superpower is pressuring Sri Lanka so much?

27 March 2013 11:02 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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- By Major General Boniface Perera RWP RSP

Sri Lanka is an island with a land mass of 65,610 Sq km. About 74% of the Sri Lankan population is represented by Sinhalese and about 12.55% is Tamils, the majority of who live in the North and the East of the island and the rest is represented by few other communities (i.e. Muslims and Malay).  India with a population of over one billion people is the closest neighbour of Sri Lanka which has only a population of 20 million. However the Southern Indian Tamil population exceeds 60 million as against 2 million Tamils in Sri Lanka.  Proximity to Southern India and vast the Tamil population in those states is a very crucial factor in dealing with the subject of security in Sri Lanka.

" For imperialism, our part of the Indian Ocean is the gateway to the resources and markets in the Near East, Middle East, Africa and Asia "

Furthermore, Sri Lanka, located in the southern tip of India, lies at the crossroads of all maritime routes in the region (See Map). 70% of the global oil trade and 50% of container traffic pass through the Indian Ocean. Today, this sea route is operational with 36,000 ships passing through Sri Lanka’s southern port of Hambantota annually, including 4,500 oil tankers. Sri Lanka is governed by a Presidential system with the Judiciary, the Legislature and the executive combining in the Governance process. It is an economically booming region mainly due to the rapid development of two giants: India and China.

For imperialism, our part of the Indian Ocean is not merely a market to be conquered or a source of raw materials to be pillaged. It is the gateway to the control of resources and markets in the Near East, Middle East, Africa and Asia.

During the past few years, Sri Lanka appears to have forged closer military relations with China.  The rise of Chinese influence is seen elsewhere in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) such as in Chittagong - Bangladesh, Gwadar - Pakistan, and Kyaukpyu - Myanmar (Burma).  Consequently, news reports examining China’s bilateral relations with Pakistan and Myanmar often make fleeting references to Sri Lanka’s deepening ties with China in an attempt to establish a broader pattern of Chinese activity in the IOR.  Such reports about Sri Lanka and China however are usually based on anecdotal accounts and speculation instead of substantive data.
It is important to be aware of the geo- strategically, geo-political and geo-social status of Southern India and North and East of Sri Lanka to understand the sensitivity and complexity of the security situation in Sri Lanka. The unique geographic position of Sri Lanka makes it a natural aircraft carrier. In this background the motion which has been brought by the Americans led west against Sri Lanka at the 22nd session of the UN Human Right Council needs to be examined very carefully.

Earlier, the UN had released a report on Sri Lanka’s decades-long war with Tamil Tiger rebels, accusing both sides of actions which it says led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians. It comes almost two years after the government declared victory.  It alleged war crimes against Sri Lanka by the  Darusman panel report associate with the UN. It said there were "credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international rights law was committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and LTTE some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity".
Furthermore, this report says tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final phase of the war and that most of them died as a result of government shelling. It also says hospitals, UN centres, ships belonging to the international aid group and the Red Cross were deliberately targeted by the Army.  However, the report also accuses LTTE of using civilians as human shields. However, Sri Lanka has rejected the report as biased and fraudulent, and is conducting its own inquiry and asked the UN not to publish the report, saying it could damage reconciliation efforts. It is noteworthy to mention that the government’s “ Zero casualty” policy didn’t warrant the military in using heavy weapons during the so called final phase of the humanitarian operation.

During the  war against LTTE and when Sri Lanka was on the verge of victory, US-British attempted  at the UN Security Council to get a ceasefire at the end of the war Both China and Russia usually oppose foreign intervention in domestic conflicts, and both held off. This provided freedom of action for Sri Lankan forces to achieve the ultimate objective, of completely eradicating the terrorism from the Sri Lankan soil.  In my opinion, Sri Lanka’s achievement should have a positive bearing on America’s ‘War on Terror’ policy.

" Sri Lanka has become an eager recipient of Chinese funds as China does not impose any kind of preconditions like the West. China has replaced Japan as Sri Lanka’s biggest foreign donor "

Following the LTTE defeat in May2009, the EU sought to pursue a motion against Sri Lanka for war crimes investigations at the UN Human Rights Council, which collapsed when 29 countries of the 47-member council voted in solidarity with Sri Lanka. India itself came out strongly in support of Sri Lanka at the Council and later even criticized the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Strong support extended by China and Russia is noteworthy to mention. However the second motion which was brought by the American led west against Sri Lanka on the same issue has succeeded.

It is important to understand the geo-political and geo-strategical status-qua of the world. After the collapse of USSR the USA remains as the Uni - polar at present. Out of 196 countries in the world, Sri Lanka can claim no position in terms of geo-strategic and geo-political importance and naturally draws the attention of the super power. On one hand, USA fears and worries about rising China as China is determined to be the world No. 1 economy by the year 2020 and it seems that China is slowly but surely marching towards that objective. USA being the sole super power in the world would not tolerate and wish to see China replacing the US. In this context, the US seems to be worried about the close friendship Sri Lanka is maintaining with China. The US without much logical and valid reasons has jumped in to that conclusion and suspects Sri Lanka to be a threat to American National Security.

Chinese investment has expanded rapidly, including the strategically situated commercial deep-sea port in Hambantota with nearly US$1 billion and US$ 200 million international airport in Mattala and the two-phase coal power plant in Norochcholai with nearly US$1.4 billion in the north western part of Sri Lanka. To mention some of the benefits enjoyed by Sri Lanka are: the creation of US$28 million Mirigama exclusive economic zone and the US$248.2 million for building the Colombo Katunayake express highway to hasten transportation between the country’s capital and the international airport.

Sri Lanka has become an eager recipient of Chinese funds as China does not impose any kind of preconditions like the west. As per May 2009, Times of London has noted that Chinese aid to Sri Lanka has jumped from a few million dollars in 2005 to almost $1 billion in 2009 replacing Japan as the biggest foreign donor.
 During the civil war in Sri Lanka, Beijing provided unconditional diplomatic, economic and military support to the Sri Lankan government, winning significant goodwill in Colombo.

The Indian threat perceptions have grown as China has become more active in South Asia specially the construction of Sri Lanka’s southern port (Hambantota) which India fears that China will use  against India in the future by PLA (Navy).  India is worried that Sri Lanka is maintaining close links with China. These is no valid reason for India to worry against Sri Lanka as Sri Lanka has assured many times that Sri Lanka will never act against India’s National Security.   

" Though, experts are unable to rule out that Sri Lanka might someday bandwagon with China, at this point, Colombo appears to be seeking assistance from any country willing to provide the same as Sri Lanka is a developing nation. Sri Lanka was not opposing China when it welcomed arms to fight its civil war or financial loans to build projects like the port in Hambantota "

Though, experts are unable to rule out that Sri Lanka might someday bandwagon with China, at this point, Colombo appears to be seeking assistance from any country willing to provide the same as Sri Lanka is a developing nation. Sri Lanka was not opposing China when it welcomed arms to fight its civil war or financial loans to build projects like the port in Hambantota. Sri Lanka is not bandwagoning against China, nor is it using China to balance against the United States or India. The United States is Sri Lanka’s top exporting country where Sri Lanka sought as an investor in the Hambantota port.  India is Sri Lanka’s biggest source of imports and the first country given the option to construct in the Hambantota port.  President Rajapaksa explains his thinking: “Now take Hambantota port. It was offered to India first.  I was desperate for development work. But ultimately the Chinese agreed to build it”.  Although, this is the reality, US and Indian defense analysts have pointed out that Hambantota will be used as a possible logistical hub for future PLA Navy operations and shown their unhappiness over Sri Lanka.  It should be emphasized that Hambantota port was constructed only for commercial purposes. 

China’s neighbours are also sure to fear its rise, and they too will do whatever they can to prevent it from achieving regional hegemony. In fact, there is already evidence that countries like India, Japan, and Russia, as well as smaller powers like Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam, are worried about China’s ascendancy and are looking for ways to contain it. In the end, they will join a US-led balancing coalition to check China’s rise, much the way Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and even China joined forces with the USA to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

In terms of international relations (IR) theory, this discussion is rooted in John Mearsheimer’s take on structural realism - offensive realism - which posits that China and the United States are inexorably marching toward armed conflict due to underlying structural forces in the international system.  Mearsheimer argues that China will militarily challenge the United States as its economic capabilities expand, as rising powers such as World War II Japan have often done. He predicts China will try to become the regional hegemony in Asia, with some smaller Asian states joining a balancing coalition led by the United States, because “the USA does not tolerate peer competitors”.

          According to Mearsheimer, the United States should be wary: “A rising China is the most dangerous potential threat to the United States in the early twenty-first century.” Whether, this theory becomes a reality or not they fear that US might lose Sri Lanka to China in the future.  It is not irrational to mention that this tiny islanders  will have to pay some price as they are living in the most important strategic location on earth which draws the attention of both regional and global powers. 
From the US point of view, China’s increased determination to finance various infrastructure projects in countries like Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is for their future military advantage. Specially, the Sri Lankan Hambantota harbour which can be used as a support transiting base and as a surveillance station for PLA forces in the future as defensive and offensive positions to protect energy interest. However, both China and Sri Lanka have rejected such a motive.  Furthermore, China’s most recent defense white paper does not mention Sri Lanka at all, whereas it details military cooperation with India.

          However, in the event of war with the United States over Taiwan, for example - Chinese policy planners have long feared a retaliatory US Naval Blockade of the Strait of Malacca to cut off vital oil supplies. In a 2003 speech, President Hu Jintao even acknowledged China’s vulnerability in the Strait. Thus, some American security analysts have argued that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been actively constructing a “string of pearls” in the IOR to secure the safe passage of oil by Chinese navy ships, as well as to position China as a countervailing presence to US naval hegemony in the Sea Lines of Communications (SLOC). Similarly, some Indian defense analysts believe that China has launched a concerted effort to “encircle” India by moving into the IOR, an area where China has historically not exercised a sphere of influence.

          Regardless of whether China has grand ambitions in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka’s southern port Hambantota epitomizes Sri Lanka’s increasingly robust relationship with China in recent years. This deepening of Sri Lanka’s relations with China has resulted in warnings from US policymakers that the United States “cannot afford to ‘lose’ Sri Lanka” - presumably to China - according to a December 2009 Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, Sri Lanka’s growing economic, military, and diplomatic ties with China. Due to these strengthening connections, some American and Indian observers have claimed, as discussed earlier, that Sri Lanka is contributing to the “encirclement of India” or becoming a “pearl” in a “string of pearls” for China in the IOR.

          There is little doubt that Sri Lanka’s move to broaden relations with China and Iran, its rejection of Western demands in its internal affairs, the timing of its victory over the LTTE, and its acceptance in June 2009 as a Dialogue Partner to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) were crucial in influencing the West’s attempts to take punitive action against Sri Lanka.

          After examining the available evidence, it should be noted that Sri Lanka is neither bandwagoning nor balancing China as predicted by global and regional power.  On the other hand, had Sri Lanka been located in a place like New Zealand, so called human right violation issues would not have been arisen as New Zealand does not possess a significant importance in its geographical location.

 Against this backdrop US and European Union used the war crimes card following the defeat of the LTTE simply to punish Sri Lanka for its trade and diplomatic relations with Iran and China, genuinely, not out of any great concern for human rights. In my frank opinion, if they were so interested about human rights, US and the West would have prevented the genocide in Rwanda where one million or if not half a million people were brutally killed in the conflict between 2 communities (Hutu and Tutsi).

It should be emphasized that, Sri Lanka’s foreign policy is based on Buddhism and compassion. Sri Lanka’s foreign policy is “Friendship towards all and enmity towards none”.  Furthermore, Sri Lanka is a non - aligned nation which has no room to bandwagon with any power.  In this context, how can Sri Lanka be a threat to American National Security?

The writer is Security Forces Commander (Wanni)
 
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See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 

 
  • Spiderman Thursday, 28 March 2013 12:00 AM

    We should let China build a military airbase and a sea port in Sri Lanka... Will shut those Indian and west for good... And sign agreements such that China will protect Sri Lanka from any format of aggression weather it's military or economic via DM Android App


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