Pentagon seeks sustained engagement with Sri Lanka
A top US commander has advocated sustained American engagement with Sri Lanka despite the political and ethnic turmoil in the island nation posing a challenge to bilateral ties, amid increasing Chinese influence in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.
US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm Philip Davidson told the Senate’s Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing that US’ military-to-military relationship continues to grow with Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka remains a significant strategic opportunity in the Indian Ocean, and our military-to-military relationship continues to strengthen. The political turmoil and ethnic tension between the Tamil and Sinhalese populations, however, remain drivers of instability and potential obstacles to continued growth in our partnership,” Davidson said.
Sri Lanka has handed over the deep water port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease due to its mounting debts to China, which has caused international concern, he said.
Despite the political upheaval, it is in America’s interests to continue military collaboration and cooperation with Sri Lankan Forces, he added.
The United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) cooperation with the Sri Lankan military centers on building capacity in maritime security and maritime domain awareness, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as humanitarian de-mining, medical assistance, and peacekeeping operations, he said.
Increasing navy-to-navy engagement with Sri Lanka will be a USINDOPACOM focus in 2019, he added.
Davidson said the Sri Lankan Navy is a well-trained and professional force with the potential to contribute to multi-lateral maritime interoperability in the Indian Ocean.
The recent transfer of an excess US Coast Guard cutter to Sri Lanka in August 2018, along with additional platforms from Japan and India, provide the Sri Lankan Navy greater capabilities to contribute to regional maritime domain awareness initiatives, he said.
“Going forward, it is necessary to sustain engagement with Sri Lanka, particularly the navy, and construct a multi-lateral approach to capacity building with like-minded partners to rapidly enhance the Sri Lankan Navy’s capabilities,” Davidson said.
According to the top Pentagon Commander, Beijing is exploiting growing debt burdens to access strategic infrastructure in the region.
In December 2017, Sri Lanka handed over control of the newly-built Hambantota seaport to Beijing on lease because it could no longer afford its debt payments to China, he added.
During world war II the allied forces led by the British set up the command post in Ceylon then to support operations in south east asia and not in India. Apat from trinco provided a secure base to provide supplies essentially oil and what we see today is waht was left b ehind by the British. The US feels that the Indians failed to live upto expectations to back the US interests in South Asia .
Regradless of what the current government thinks or successive government think there is very little the Sri Lankans do and big poers will come and go and as they wish and brobably colonise areas to support their operations as long as chinese positions are not com promised as is happening in Djibouti.
Finally in the event of a conflict between the US and the Chinese sri lanka most likely will be blown into smithereens and as now sri lankans will have no say.
So it is best that the Sri Lankans grasp the opportunity and ought to settle for something more than the clapped out coast guard clippers which the government cannot afford to maintain or run. Yes lets hope that the Sri Lankans cannot offer more than cannon fodder to sustain imperial nor neo colonial interests