THE POHOTTUWA GOVERNMENT OF SRI LANKA Part 2 C9g
Posted on January 18th, 2021

KAMALIKA PIERIS

India has signed many military agreements with US and has cemented a firm military link with USA.  In recognition of this, in December 2020 US President Trump presented Prime Minister Narendra Modi with America’s highest military decoration, Legion of Merit. This is a rarely-awarded, prestigious decoration. It shows how highly US rates its link with India.

US and India both wish to contain China, but India does not intend to be a junior partner to US. An ally of the US may be, but not a pawn, said analysts. India wishes to increase her stature as the number one power in the region. However, by taking a leadership role in the Quad, India has moved away from the basic principles of Panchaseela and Non-alignment, commented critics.

India wishes to continue its relationship with its former ally, Russia. In 2018 India had a deal with Russia to purchase     S-400 air defense system, ignoring US warning.  In September 2019 India signed an ‘agreement on reciprocal logistical support” with Russia. 

India has its own military plans. In 2017 India obtained logistics facilities in Singapore for Indian warships to refuel and get water in their operational turnaround.  Since 2018, India has been given logistics facilities at Nha Trang on the Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. India is the only country to receive this facility.

But India will not find it easy. India has failed to establish good relations with its two most powerful neighbors, China and Pakistan.   Instead India has angered both and now China and Pakistan are getting ready to   hit India. Pakistan is a formidable military power.

It will be a simple matter for Pakistan and China to join hands in attacking India. The possibility of collusion between these two military adversaries of India is high, said experts in 2020. In January 2021, Indian army stated that there was a visible collusion between China and Pakistan and   it is now manifesting itself on the ground.  India is aware that Pakistan and China are sharing intelligence.

When they attack, China will grab a chunk of the north Indian border and Pakistan will try to seize Kashmir, since Indian troops would be reduced in Kashmir.  India will have to face a two-and-a-half- front- war, said experts, China in the north, Pakistan in the west, and a well planned insurgency in Kashmir.  India cannot possibly win such a war.

 India is completely unprepared for a two-front conflict, let alone a two-and-a-half front war, said India’s military.  India’s army is not large enough or well equipped. It will not be possible to move troops and resources from one front to another, either. However hard the Indian army fights it will not be able to win against the combination of China and Pakistan.

India must now hurry up and settle matters with either Pakistan or China, said advisers. China is a bigger challenge than Pakistan so   it is best to approach China. But that will be difficult. The Chinese have got a vision and a plan, admitted India.

China plans to challenge India on all possible fronts. In 2019, India revoked the limited autonomy granted to Jammu and Kashmir and turned them into union territories of India. The Chinese Permanent Representative to the United Nations complained about this  in a closed-door informal session of the U.N. Security Council saying that this affected the Ladakh border area.

China increased its troops in eastern Ladakh in 2020, enabling     eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in the future.   China has also massed troops 500 to 1,500 km away from the border. These troops could be brought to the border in 24 to 48 hours, admitted India.

China then suggested to India that the eight mountainous spurs jutting out of the Sirijap range   in Ladakh be turned into a buffer zone. India refused, because that area is under India at present. India did not wish to cede control over territory presently patrolled by Indian Army.

There are ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan as well. Ceasefire violations at the Jammu-Kashmir border have increased significantly. There were 2,158 ceasefire violations by India in 2020. There has been a sharp increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistani forces all along the border in 2020.

Now, Pakistan has started tunneling into Kashmir. India has detected two tunnels so far.  They are professionally constructed .The second tunnel is three-feet-wide and constructed at a depth of25 to 30 feet. Pakistan is sending infiltrators into Jammu and Kashmir, said India’s military.  

India has not changed its attitude towards Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka has not changed its attitude towards India. Sri Lanka does not trust India. Sri Lanka has not forgotten the ‘parippu’ drop. The current objection to giving the Eastern terminal of the Colombo port to the Adani   group is also anti-India. 

India wishes to gain control of Sri Lanka by making Sri Lanka dependant on India for its energy needs.  India wishes to build an overhead electricity link with Sri Lanka.  India aims to have a regional power grid which will cater to Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

India has provided assistance to Sri Lanka amounting to USD 3.5 billion in January 2021. The bulk of this assistance is for the north, east and estate areas.   In 2021 India will help in renovation of 27 schools in north, build 3200 sanitation units in Batticaloa and a temperature controlled warehouse at Dambulla.

Indian Foreign Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, had wanted to visit Sri Lanka in November 2020, but Sri Lanka was unable to accommodate   the visit. Minister Jaishankar visited Sri Lanka in January 2021. It was a hurriedly arranged visit, less than five days’ notice was given to Colombo, said the media.

Jaishankar met with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, of course, but that was not all. Jaishankar met UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa as well. He invited Sajith to visit Delhi. He met Sri Lanka business leaders and discussed trade opportunities. Then he met a delegation from the TNA. TNA were delighted to meet him and gave him a copy of the TNA’s constitutional proposals.

Jaishankar was hosted to dinner at the Wijerama residence of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The only minister to take part in the event was G.L. Peiris. Conspicuous by his absence was Foreign Minister Gunawardena, said the media.

Jaishankar’s whistle-stop visit to Colombo was prompted largely by New Delhi’s concerns over China’s ‘influence’ in Indian projects, such as the proposed partnership to run the East Container Terminal in the Colombo Port, said the media. .Jaishankar had also specifically requested the Sri Lankan Government not to hand over the oil tank farm to anybody else.

Jaishankar   clearly did not come to woo Sri Lanka. He came to advise, meddle and instruct. Jaishankar said India supported devolution, reconciliation, Provincial Councils and the 13th Amendment. There was no direct response from Sri Lanka to this, observed the media. Government said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is committed to the wellbeing progress and opportunities of all our citizens.”

 The intelligentsia however, responded. Even after a lapse of 30 years and the removal of most of the major factors associated with Tamil politics in India and Sri Lanka, India continues to see Sri Lanka from the perspective of Tamil politics, they said.

But India also has its supporters in Sri Lanka. India has quietly but carefully been a major grant donor to Sri Lanka, especially in the task of postwar reconstruction, said Harim Pieris. The Sri Lankan Government railways beyond Omanthai, as well as rolling stock, the Palaly Airport development and indeed the 50,000 houses programme in the Central, Northern and Eastern Provinces, together with ADB funded road reconstruction, have formed the core of postwar rebuilding in the former war affected provinces of Sri Lanka.

It is clearly an irritant to India, that with fast track and increasing Government approval for China to pile on debt laden costly infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka of questionable utility value, such as the Port City and the Lotus Tower, Indian investments on more mutually beneficial commercial terms, such as the Colombo Port’s East Terminal development, are [getting] stalled, continued Harim.

However, geography, history and, most importantly, modern-day economic reality, means that Sri Lanka needs to nurture and protect India, our closest and giant neighbour. Sri Lanka, much more than India, stands to benefit from closer economic ties between the two neighbors, ideally establishing ourselves as a services, logistics and knowledge hub for the giant economy next door, as well as a low-cost entry point to the subcontinent’s economy, concluded Harim Pieris. (continued)

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