China’s support for the Hambantota Port is commercial in nature and it should not be misconstrued as fitting the ‘String of Pearls’ paradigm, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa stressed yesterday.
He said Sri Lanka needs the support of its friends instead of criticism and admonishment of certain nations. “Sri Lanka needs the support of its friends instead of criticism and admonishment that seems to feature large on the agenda of certain nations that seek to dwell continually on the past,” he said.
He stressed that this practice is not constructive.
The Secretary added that Sri Lanka is striving for meaningful economic cooperation and strengthening of genuine diplomatic relationship with its allies.
“This is precisely what Sri Lanka’s closest allies today readily offer, which is something the entire country is greatly appreciative of,” he stressed.
Secretary Rajapaksa was delivering the keynote address at the inauguration of the 4th annual Galle Dialogue at the Light House Hotel in Galle.
Delegates representing the maritime sector in 35 countries participated in this annual maritime conference which focuses at promoting interdependency to stabilise coexistence.
This annual conference also focuses on emerging trends in the Indian Ocean which have the potential to destabilise the regional peaceful coexistence.
The Defence Secretary said the country has made tremendous progress after emerging from a brutal terrorist conflict less than five years ago.
“Sri Lanka has always pursued a non-aligned foreign policy. It continues to provide logistical and other support to ships from all countries at our ports, including naval vessels and warships that travel through the region. There is no reason for this state of affairs to change in future,” he said.
He added that Chinese support for the construction of the Hambantota Port was instrumental in fulfilling a longstanding need in Sri Lanka to cater to the shipping lines passing south of the island.
The Defence Secretary added that India is Sri Lanka’s largest neighbour and the most important country in the region.
“Notwithstanding occasional bilateral issues, our social, cultural, economic and political ties are both historic and robust.” Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said the country’s relations with China are multi-faceted and deep rooted.
“Sri Lanka recognised the People’s Republic of China in 1950 and formal diplomatic relations between the two nations were established in 1957,” he said.
He said that sea piracy activities in the India Ocean witnessed a decline during the last two years mainly due to the increasing presence of armed private security teams on-board merchant vessels. “Ship owners as well as insurance underwriters have started to demand the presence of private security teams on board ships crossing the piracy-affected areas of the Indian Ocean,” he said.
He added that Sri Lanka has taken the lead in providing such security services by creating a Maritime Division in a fully state-owned security company to provide weapons and ammunition to private maritime security companies engaged in on board security duties.
The Secretary added that the government in partnership with a local private security company, started to provide vessels with on board teams which include former Navy personnel with considerable experience in combating attacks on sea.
“Sri Lanka is also a major disembarkation point for security teams from other countries. The government provides logistical support for the movement of weapons and ammunition, including the provision of bonded warehouses for their storage.”
The Defence Secretary added that the country has also begun operating stringently regulated and secure floating armouries to fulfil this requirement.
Utmost precautions are taken to ensure complete accountability for the weapons and equipment provided, he said adding that the country has very close cooperation with Down Under in relation to combating human smuggling. Human smuggling in the Indian Ocean is another major illicit activity. Sri Lanka has worked together very closely with Australia on the issue of human smuggling in the recent past. This bilateral effort has been extremely successful, he said.
The Secretary also added that the Sri Lankan government has also worked with the governments of India and the Maldives on establishing a trilateral agreement for cooperation in surveillance, anti piracy operations and curbing illegal activities. The strategy of infiltration used in the 2008 Mumbai attacks were also similar to those employed by the LTTE in earlier decades.
(Courtesy: Daily News / Pix by M.O.D)