YAHAPALANA AND INDIA Part  6
Posted on November 3rd, 2017

KAMALIKA PIERIS

At one time, relations between India and the United States were not good. In 2011 former Indian President Abdul Kalam was   searched twice at US airports. On one occasion airport officials had boarded the plane he was in and taken away the shoes and jacket he was wearing to screen for explosives.

When Indian Prime Minister Modi was to make his first visit to the USA in September 2014, the U.S. Federal Court of the Southern District of New York issued a summons against him regarding his alleged involvement in the 2002 riots in Gujarat. The summons charged Prime Minister Modi with committing crimes against humanity, extra-judicial killings, torture and inflicting mental and physical trauma on the victims, mostly from the Muslim community. This lawsuit was filed by the American Justice Center, a human rights organization representing two survivors of the violence of Gujarat 2002.

India-US relations started to improve thereafter. In 2015 US President Barack Obama paid two visits to India. India and US released a joint statement where they affirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security.  The statement mentioned South China Sea for the first time. Earlier India had stayed away from the subject.

Indian Prime Minister Modi visited Washington in June 2017 and US and India signed a strategic energy partnership. In October 2017 India received its first ever shipment of US crude oil, 1.6 million barrels  imported by Indian Oil Corporation and arriving at Paradip port in Odisha state.

In August 2016, after nearly a decade of painstaking discussions, India and United States signed a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement and India was declared a Major Defense Partner of the United States. This Agreement allows for exchange of logistics support, supplies and services between the two countries’ armed forces. This includes food, water, fuel, spare parts, repair, transportation, communication and medical services.

India initially had strong reservations about this agreement.  India feared that this Agreement could lock their country into a formal and irreversible military alliance and push New Delhi into supporting U.S. conflicts, a move that could upset countries such as Russia and China and friendly nations in the Middle East. ‘We resisted this agreement for long because we didn’t want to give the perception that we are ganging up with Americans against somebody else, in particular China, said   Indian authorities.

United States took into account Indian concerns about being drawn into U.S. conflicts and tweaked the agreement accordingly. The agreement does not create any obligations on either party to carry out any joint activity. It does not provide for the establishment of any bases or basing arrangements,” said India.

US wants India to sign three Foundational Agreements.  The first, Logistics exchange memorandum (LEMOA) has been signed.  US now wants India to sign the other two, the Communication interoperability and Security memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) but India is reluctant.  India wants customized agreements which recognize its unique status as a ‘major defense partner’.  When you look at the intense military engagements planned, it is clear that the remaining two foundational bilateral agreements will eventually be signed, said analysts.

US has also been talking optimistically about the possibility of Indian and American warships carrying out joint patrols in the South China Sea. India has commercial interests in the area, such as oil and gas exploration in waters under the Vietnamese control, said US. Soon the naval vessels of the two nations will be steaming together. This will become a common and welcome sight throughout Indo-Asia-Pacific waters,” said the head of the US Pacific Command, confidently. India immediately ruled this out. There will be no joint patrols by the two navies, said Indian defense Minister, Parrikar.

India knows it lacks the strength for this sort of thing anyway. India’s enmity with Pakistan is still continuing. India is trying to obtain Predator avenger drones from US, so that they can hit Pakistan any where they wish. If India and China go to war, India will be simultaneously engaged in fighting on two fronts, hitting China on its left and Pakistan on its right.

India-US relations   are now developing into a deep commercial and strategic partnership, said analysts. USA has great expectations of India as a net security provider in Asia and as a priority partner in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region. India needs a reliable partner on the world stage. With our shared values and vision for global stability, peace and prosperity, the United States is that partner, said US Secretary of State Tillerson. The US is openly setting up India to counter China said analysts, bluntly.

USA wants to see the   US- India relationship develop into a strategic alliance in the ­Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region, said the US.  With our shared goals of peace, security, freedom of navigation, and a free and open architecture, the United States and India must serve as the eastern and western beacons of the Indo-Pacific, said Tillerson. The US link has also opened new relationships for India with Japan and Australia.

US is well aware that India has to be kept happy. India wants to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It has wanted this for years. USA wants to give India this. The way to do this, said Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, is to get India in without giving it veto powers. The permanent members of the Security Council have the ability to veto and none of them want to give that up. So, the way to get India on the Security Council is to avoid the veto, said Haley. Several countries are supporting India’s permanent membership in the Security Council. China is the only barrier to India’s membership to the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group added analysts.

But India has no intention of linking exclusively with the US. India has had military relations with Russia for a long time and India continues to be a key partner for Moscow.  India and Russia have conducted nine military exercises so far, under the name INDRA. They were conducted as single service exercises alternately between the two countries.

INDRA 2017” however, was different. It was the first tri-service bilateral exercise India has conducted with any of its foreign partners.  The very decision to have Russia as a partner for first ever trilateral exercise reflects confidence in a defense partnership that evolved over five decades, said analysts. This is also a reflection of familiarity with each other and the need to elevate strategic partnership to a new level.

The final planning conference meant to decide the modalities of the exercise took place between Indian and Russian delegations at Ussuryisk, Russia, in mid-September. It was mutually agreed to conduct the exercise from October 19 to 29 at Vladivostok in eastern Russia, which is not very far from Russia’s borders with China and North Korea. It will be focused on counter-terrorism tactics with the involvement of mechanized forces such as tanks and infantry combat vehicles, artillery guns, Indian Air Force (IAF) transport planes and naval anti-submarine ships and Special Forces personnel. For the first time there will be large scale participation by India’s Navy, Army and Air Force.

The exercise will take place at three locations in this area: Sergeevsky 249 Combined Arms Training Area, Cape Klerk and Peter the Great Bay in the Sea of Japan. A 350-strong army contingent from different combat arms, infantry, artillery and armor, will participate in the exercise. Tanks and BMP infantry fighting vehicles will be provided to the Indian Army for the exercise in Russia. Two IL-76 military transport aircraft of Russian origin and two Indian Navy ships INS Satpura, a multi-role frigate and INS Kadmatt, an anti-submarine corvette, will also participate in the exercise. The Indian Navy contingent will also include Chetak Search and Rescue helicopters and MARCOS.

This first joint tri-service exercise with Russia was held as planned in October 2017. The Indian Defence Ministry, in a statement, said this 10-day mega war game will serve towards strengthening mutual confidence and interoperability as well as sharing of the best practices between the armed forces of both the countries. This exercise will be a demonstration of the increasing commitment of both nations to address common challenges across the full spectrum of operations.  INDRA 2107 will be a landmark event in the history of Indo-Russian defense cooperation.

Now let us turn to India-Sri Lanka relations. India was the first port of call for President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and Foreign ministers, Mangala Samaraweera and Ravi Karunanayake, when they took office. President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe visited India four times each. Over the past two and a half years, there were at least 10 high level visits between India and Sri Lanka, said analysts. Tilak Marapana, Foreign Minister, visiting Modi in New Delhi, said “It is in the fitness of things that I should come here first to call on you. India is like our elder brother”. India firmly repudiated this. What exists now is mutual cooperation, not superiority, said India.

Indian Prime Minister Modi visited Sri Lanka twice, in March 2015 and May 2017. No Indian Prime Minister had visited for nearly three decades. On his first visit, Modi made it a point to visit Anuradhapura, on the second visit he worshipped at Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy. On his second visit, Modi made at speech at Norwood, Hatton to an audience of eager plantation Tamils. He told them that they were part of the Indian Diaspora and that India beats in your heart.”

National University Lecturers Association promptly issued a statement against this. It was wrong of Modi to describe plantation Tamils of Indian origin as part of an Indian Diaspora, the Association said. This would create a wrong mentality among up country plantation Tamils, who are citizens of Sri Lanka rather than part of an Indian Diaspora.

Modi seems to consider the plantation Tamils as a community in another Indian state rather than a community in a neighboring state, said the Association. Modi’s speech could be treated as an attempt to sow the seeds of another separatist movement in Sri Lanka. Further, Modi’s suggestion that the Plantation Tamil Community in Sri Lanka were upholding Indian culture would dissuade the community from integrating into Sri Lankan culture. Maintenance of an Indian culture in Sri Lanka was contradictory to the reconciliation policy of the Sri Lanka government.

China’s presence in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Djibouti is worrying from the point of Indian security,” said   India. We cannot keep silent watching the string of pearls tighten. In order to prevent its neighbors from drifting towards a more lucrative China, India now plans to use cultural and historical ties to build up better relations with its neighbors. This also means mending its own fences.  India has settled the land border dispute with Bangladesh and is now working out a mechanism to share water between the two countries and improve trade investments. ‘With Nepal too we share close relations,’ said India.

India now wants to develop its relationship with Sri Lanka on a ‘one to one basis’,  with mutual respect and open hands, respecting the sovereignty and dignity of the two countries, said   Indian officials. We want to re-do what was missing in the last 27 years. We believe our relations are not simply based on economy but on the narrative of history and culture”.

With a cultural heritage spanning more than 2,500 years, the close rapport between India and Sri Lanka can be designated as a ‘civilization relationship ‘said India. Culture and history are vital elements for both nations, with geographic proximity .Proximity brings a certain level of affinity between the two countries with shared natural resources and global commerce. India  also now  recognizes the importance of public relations. The  naval crew of INS ‘Sutlej’ conducted a beach cleaning campaign at Crows Island, Mattakkuliya.  Senior and junior sailors as well as the officers participated.

As Sri Lanka’s biggest trading partner, India remains consistent in its position that the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperative Agreement (ETCA) should proceed at a pace Colombo is comfortable with, sans any set targets for the signing of the bilateral pact, said Binoy George, Deputy Secretary, Sri Lanka Desk. We are content with following a time-line Sri Lanka is comfortable with in signing ETCA.

Asked whether New Delhi is concerned over Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port deal with China, India replied “China is a matter for Sri Lanka. We never see our relationship with Sri Lanka through the prism of another country. Our relationship is on Sri Lanka’s own merit.  China is an important economic partner of Sri Lanka in the ongoing development process. However, Chinese presence at the  Hambantota port was  worrying to India, though Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe however, has continuously assured that the Port would not be used for any foreign military activity .

India  voiced concerns over Chinese investments in the country. India has not provided the big investments desperately needed by Sri Lanka.  What India offers however, is less debt, open investments and democratic government, said India. As compared to China,  aid coming from India is not debt. Whatever little resource India has, it has invested in Northern houses, hospitals and railroads. I believe that because of our ethos and culture- we are a reliable partner,  said  an Indian spokesman. When you see China investments in Africa, even the workers are imported from China, no one knows what happens in the projects. We believe in building partnerships on an equal basis, not one party investing and developing a China town. In every project, we want Sri Lanka to be a partner. We don’t want to purchase 90 percent of shares, he added.

In a bid to appease Indian fears, the government has invited  India to invest in the Trincomalee oil tanks. The envisaged plan now is to collaborate with Sri Lanka to jointly develop the farm, which continue to remain idle. This oil storage facility can be jointly developed.  Energy security is important today,  said India. In 2003, a tripartite agreement was signed between the Sri Lankan Government, the LIOC and the CPC covering the entire tank farm, upper and lower. India now wants to move forward on the project as a joint collaboration.

Since 2003, nothing has moved, though India continues to pay the rent. Sri Lanka took a step back from the original position. As previous efforts have failed, we said let’s develop these oil tanks together. India is willing to invest under a joint development plan without allowing the farm to remain idle any longer. At present, the oil tanks are of no value to either country”,  said Binoy George. Land in the Colombo Port City was given to China on a 99 year lease, which is a long time. Whereas in Trincomalee, even if the deal was signed, it is only in respect to the old one signed in 2003 and it is only for 35 years,” he said.

Sri Lanka has also indicated that it would hand over to India running of the Chinese built Mattala airport. Handing over the loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) in Hambantota to India would enable Sri Lanka to pay back dues to China’s EXIM Bank, which had provided loans to build the airport.

India has granted Sri Lanka a credit line of USD 45.27 million for financing the rehabilitation of the Kankesanturai Port in the northern Jaffna peninsula. The port which adjoins the Palaly military base and the Northern Area Navy headquarters was not operational  during the Eelam war. The rehabilitation will include dredging shallow areas while making provision for more ships to dock there.

Sustainable Green Energy a  Sri Lanka company headed by an Indian has received the green light from the government to start a bamboo cultivation project in north in Vavuniya. India has given an Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV)  to Sri Lanka . India has a coast guard exercise with Maldives and Sri Lanka called ‘Dosti’.  There is  a free 24 hour pre hospital care ambulance service, now operating in the west and south with plans to expand island wide. This project is treated with great suspicion by the intelligentsia.

India gave a grant of Rs. 600 million  to  University of Jaffna,  to develop the Faculty of Agriculture and Faculty of Engineering at Kilinochchi. The project included construction of lecture halls, conference hall, computer laboratory, library, and sports complex for the Faculty of Agriculture; and lecture halls, a conference hall, laboratories, administrative office and staff room for the Faculty of Engineering. In addition, the Government of India will also provide support for curriculum development, faculty exchanges, training and research.

India and Sri Lanka have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, to renovate Saraswathy College, Pussellawa in the Kandy District through a grant of Rs. 96 million.. Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka handed over 16,000 books to the  Jaffna public library. The collection will be kept at the ‘India Corner’ in the library, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated during his maiden visit in 2015.

One Response to “YAHAPALANA AND INDIA Part  6”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Is Sri Lanka expected to solve Tamil CASTE problems ? !

    Lanka has no control over INDIAN & Tamil Nadu Ancient Laws & Culture.

    It’s like telling a toddler to make a Kavum & X’mas Cake !

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