YAHAPALANA AND “WORLD WAR III” Part 1
Posted on September 24th, 2017

KAMALIKA PIERIS

‘An irresistible rising China is on course to collide with an immovable America,’ said Harvard scholar Graham Allison. When a rising power, in this case China, causes fear in an established power, in this case USA, the result is usually war, he said. He called this the ‘Thucydides Trap’ after some Greek war that took places ages ago.

China   is expected to become the sole world power within the next 10 or 20 years. This suits China. China is in no hurry. China thinks in a longer time frame than the United States observed Judith Shapiro. Den Xiaoping had advised China ‘hide our capacities and bide out time’. But US wants urgent action. US wants to prevent China’s rise  by crushing China in a war as soon as possible.

There are two locations where the US-China war could take place. One obvious location is the South China Sea, the other less obvious location, is the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean is   a region of utmost strategic importance to the US, said Tamara Kunanayagam,  particularly the Bay of Bengal, where China has its string of pearls   in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka.

However, US is poorly prepared to deal with China, observed Shapiro. The US lacks the   weapon strength and the money to challenge China militarily. Therefore the US plans to fight China in the Bay of Bengal using India and Japan with Singapore and Australia joining in if necessary. There was a U.S.-India-Japan ‘Malabar’ naval exercise in July 2017. This was our largest and most complex to date, involving over ten thousand personnel  and it is a signal to China that we are one, said the US. India, Japan, US and Singapore are driven by a common desire to curb China, observed Ladduwahetty.

Singapore and Australia have been close allies of the United States for a long time. India is a new ally. India had signed a landmark civilian nuclear cooperation deal with US in 2008  but was hesitant about a military alliance with the US, though the US was pressing it for years. The arrival of China into the Bay of Bengal decided the matter. In 2016, India and United States signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, which permitted the use of each other’s land, air and naval bases for repair and resupply, a step toward building defense ties. India was declared a Major Defense Partner of the United States. However, the logistics agreement did not allow for U.S. bases in India. Analysts say that India would prefer an American base in Sri Lanka rather than inside India.

 

USA has had a security treaty with Japan since 1960 and US troops have been stationed in Japan for decades. In 2015 Japan passed legislation which permitted the Japanese military to operate overseas in support of its allies. In a joint statement made in February 2017, US and Japan confirmed their ‘unshakable U.S.-Japan Alliance’ for peace, prosperity and freedom in the Asia-Pacific region.  Japan did not pay much attention to the Indian Ocean till about 2000.  Now, observed Pathfinder Foundation, with China reaching out to South Asia, Japan, which is anti-China in the Pacific Ocean, is prepared to be anti-China in the Indian Ocean as well, to protect its energy supplies which come through the Indian Ocean to Japan. Japan has joined the US-India axis  against China in the Indian Ocean. Japan has now become a major naval power in the Indian Ocean with its Japanese Maritime Self Defence Forces (MSDF)  and participates in several naval and coast-guard exercises with India,  such as ‘JIMEX’.

Tamara Kunanayagam observed that Sri Lanka   today faces a determined United States, ready to coerce Sri Lanka to join the US in its confrontations with China in the Indian Ocean. US needs Sri Lanka to complete its defense ring around the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is important because of its strategic location in the Indian Ocean.  Sri Lanka has Trincomalee, but there is also another feature. Sri Lanka’s unique geographic position makes it a natural aircraft carrier as well.  Sri Lanka ‘s  location is the cause for the  convergence in Sri Lanka  of the five powers, China, India, USA, Japan and Singapore, observed  Ladduwahetty.The main military attraction in Sri Lanka is of course, Trincomalee. Trincomalee is one of Sri Lanka most valuable assets. Trincomalee is one of the largest deep water natural harbors in the world. It consists of approximately 2000 hectares of sea and 6000 hectares of land.  The entrance is four miles wide and five across.  The inner harbor which lies to the north covers about 12 sq miles and is securely enclosed by rocks and small islets.

A remarkable feature of this harbor is its great depth. It has an average depth of 25 m, which could accommodate even mega container ships carrying over 18,000 TEUs that requires a draught of 19 meters..  It has a submarine canyon with walls as high as 1350 cms and a depth of over 3350 meters.  This canyon is one of the 20 largest submarine canyons in the world.

Trincomalee harbor is very strategically located   in the Bay of Bengal. Trincomalee is a sheltered port unaffected by seasonal weather changes and tidal waves. Therefore it could ensure the safety of a whole fleet during the monsoon. Trincomalee is also ideal for nuclear submarines.  They can dive low in the inner harbor and effectively avoid radar and sonar detection.  This has political implications. A fleet so protected is in a position to dominate the Bay of Bengal and the eastern Indian Ocean and   the foreign power owning such a fleet was at an advantage. Currently, it has been observed that Trincomalee can comfortably accommodate the Seventh fleet of the US Navy.

US does not hide its desire to get into Trincomalee. US is working towards establishing  its bases in Trincomalee for its Seventh Fleet and was making Sri Lanka military vacate strategically important locations in the port,  said a news report of 2015.    Accordingly, Sampur navy base was vacated in 2015. The entire camp was removed and its 400 sailors sent to Boossa navy camp in Galle. The reason given was that Sampur was going to be used for resettlement.

The Rajapakse government had declared Sampur an industrial zone. Land was given to Sri Lanka Gateway Industries, a Singapore based concern,   for the development  of a  deepwater jetty, bulk commodities terminal , power generation plants, sugar industries, fertilizer industries,  transshipping coal and thermal coal, iron ore industries, oil and petrochemical industry, car manufacturing assembly plant and a host of other industries which would generate much employment.  It was a Cabinet approved project with the highest FDI ever in Sri Lanka’s history.

President Sirisena revoked this agreement and transferred 818 acres in Sampur to internally displaced persons. 825 displaced families were at that time living in temporary shelters in Sampur, he said. The media carried a photograph of Tamil leaders in verti and garlands at the ceremony. Land deeds in Sampur were subsequently given to 234 families.

The media continued its focus on USA and Trincomalee. The government has decided to allow Trincomalee to be a US base for the 7th fleet said a news report in 2016. Speculation is rife that the Trincomalee Harbor, a portion of the Colombo Port and many other key resources will go to India and the US, said Sumanasiri Liyanage in January 2017.  In May 2017 Vitarana said that an American Naval camp is to be set up in Trincomalee, with the Trincomalee harbor as the focal point. A bilateral agreement has been signed secretly to establish an American naval camp in Trincomalee.

Before taking Sri Lanka into war, the US has to somehow loosen China’s grip on Sri Lanka. It must stop China from building up a lasting partnership with Sri Lanka and also bring Colombo under the US sphere of influence. .Because India is so unpopular in Sri Lanka, the US has entrusted this task to Japan. In Oct 2015 Japan and Sri Lanka   signed a comprehensive partnership agreement. Japan will work with India on the Trincomalee port and also help in several major infrastructure projects including Light Rail and expressways.

Japan has openly expressed concern about China’s growing investment in Sri Lanka and its influence over the government in Colombo. China’s ‘development looking’ projects are in fact barely concealed tactics to increase its military abilities in the Indian Ocean. The new ports could be used as naval supply bases, said Japanese security expert Satoru Nagao, presently Research Fellow at the Sri Lanka Institute of National Security Studies (INSS).

China is not the only country that could help Sri Lanka, said Nagao. Japan could help fill the gap left by the Chinese. Closer ties to Japan and India would more than make up for any economic troubles caused by shunning the Chinese. Collaborative projects with them are preferable to accepting China’s support, which would create strategic difficulties. Therefore, under Japan-Sri Lanka-India cooperation, a win-win situation can be created,” he said. Also Japan can be the perfect mediator between India and Sri Lanka, concluded Nagao.

Japan wants Sri Lanka to be a member of US led alliance   and is taking action to push Sri Lanka in that direction.  A Japan- India- Sri Lanka partnership in the security domain would be valuable.  Sri Lanka can be the base for strategic maritime surveillance over the Indian Ocean. If Japan and India collaborate to establish a maritime communications network system in Sri Lanka that would serve the entire Indian Ocean, it would be easy for the three countries to know what is happening in the Indian Ocean.

Japan’s military links with Sri Lanka are not completely new. The rank order of foreign warships visiting the Port of Colombo from 2008 to 2017 was India 73, Japan 64 and China 26.  But under Yahapalana government Japan  has   established links with the Sri Lankan Navy and the Coast Guard. The  training squadron of the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) has been visiting the Port of Colombo and engaging in exercises with Sri Lanka Navy and Sri Lanka  Coast Guards. The last such visit was in October 2016 by MSDF ships Kashima, Setoyuki and Asagiri. The MSDF also participated in ‘Pacific Partnership 2017’, a multilateral exercise with the participation of military and non-military personnel from the USA, Australia and Sri Lanka. This is the first time this exercise was conducted in Sri Lanka. Japan has stationed a Defence Attaché in Colombo, to coordinate the visits of MSDF vessels

In 2016, Government of Japan granted 1,830 million Japanese Yen (approximately Rs. 2.4 billion) to the Government of Sri Lanka, for procurement of two 30-meter patrol vessels from Japan, including construction of vessels, sea transportation from Japan to Sri Lanka, and familiarization training for coast guard personnel. In 2017, on a loan from Japanese government, the SLCG also placed an order for construction of two 85-meter Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) with the Colombo Dockyard (Pvt.) Ltd. (CDL) to enhance its capabilities in deep sea surveillance.

Two arguments, which contradict each other, are used to bring the utterly  oblivious Sri Lanka into the future US-China war. The first Yahapalana argument was that Sri Lanka needs protection. We require international support to secure and strengthen our maritime boundary. The island’s surrounding seas are 27 times larger than the country itself, so it needs whatever aid it can get to police the area.

The second Yahapalana argument is quite the opposite. Sri Lanka has an important responsibility for regional security in addition to national security as the country is situated at an important strategic location in the international maritime route, said Yahapalana. Small nations such as Sri Lanka, with comparatively limited maritime resources also can become an integral element of maritime security in the region, said Minister Harsha de Silva. No single power or coalition will be able to maintain peace and stability on their own in the Indian Ocean hereafter.  No country is capable of handling the maritime security threats and challenges in isolation, anywhere, no matter how advanced and developed it might be, he said. Sri Lanka therefore has a strategic role to play in the Indian Ocean. we share responsibility in keeping its waters safe said  Prime Minister Ranil  Wickremesinghe .

We would like America to be a force in this part of the world,  said Dr. C. Raja Mohan, Director of Carnegie India. It would be good for South Asia if the United States were to maintain a presence in the Indian Ocean in the near future. But we cannot be sure that US will be always be with us. Therefore it is crucial that countries in the region take responsibility for maintaining peace in the region. There could be different combinations for this, such as India- Japan,   India-Japan-Sri Lanka or India-Sri Lanka- Maldives, concluded Raja Mohan.

It was the duty of the Sri Lanka navy to protect the entire Indian Ocean region without limiting its operation to the exclusive economic zone of Sri Lanka, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.  Critics pounced on this remark. This comment is cause for grave concern said Vitarana. Sri Lanka navy was been asked to protect the entire Indian ocean. Our navy cannot even protect us from the Indian fishermen. If Sri Lanka navy is to carry out this huge responsibility, then US ships will have to be berthed in Sri Lanka.   The US 7th fleet will come to Trincomalee.

Critics say that the Yahapalana government, described as a puppet regime, is a ‘fully pro-Washington regime’. Plans are afoot to set up a US base in Trincomalee harbor, said Tissa Vitarana in 2016. Very soon the US 7th fleet will be in our waters, he warned. A bilateral agreement in this regard has been signed secretly between Sri Lanka and America, he said in 2017. These growing military ties to the US are a threat to Sri Lanka.  If military cooperation of this nature continues, and an American military base   is set up in Sri Lanka ,  Sri Lanka would become a puppet country of the US like Philippine’s, concluded  Vitarana.  Sri Lanka’s military will be transformed from a force protecting Sri Lanka’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity to one defending US global interests. US interests will take precedence over the concerns of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is a small nation, surrounded by much larger countries, all with economic and military power, greater than its own. It is essential that Sri Lanka maintain mutually beneficial economic and political ties with them, but Sri Lanka has to take utmost care to ensure that it does not enter in to asymmetrical agreements of long duration with a super power. The damage to national interests will be irreparable, said Anura Gunasekera. Once entrenched, the super power will not relinquish its hold, it will only ask for more. National interest will not be a consideration in their calculations. We have to bear in mind at all times that we do not have the wherewithal, to exert economic, political or military force to evict an undesirable occupant from our soil, warned Anura Gunasekera   (CONTINUED)

One Response to “YAHAPALANA AND “WORLD WAR III” Part 1”

  1. NAK Says:

    Most of our people are like frogs in the well who don’t have clue what is happening around us.

    The government is also making sure that the people’s concerns are limited to their next meal.

    India shamelessly sacrificing Sri Lanka to the US wolves for the sake of their security,which will in time prove to be a grave mistake as India has been habitually making decisions pernicious to Sri Lanka.

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