THE POHOTTUWA GOVERNMENT OF SRI LANKA Part 2 C13
Posted on January 28th, 2021

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The United State of America is getting ready for war in the Bay of Bengal and plans to drag Sri Lanka into that war to fight on behalf of USA. Sri Lanka does not welcome this.  We are caught up in this power game between India, China and the US because of our geostrategic location, complained Sri Lanka.

In the coming years, Sri Lanka, like the other states in the Bay of Bengal  will be forced to pick a side as China–U.S. relations continue their downward spiral, said analysts.   They   will have to choose,  but they all want to avoid taking sides.

There are   just two possibilities for Sri Lanka in this matter. Sri Lanka can try to sit this out. Wait till the threat of war fizzles out. That is a sound possibility. It is unlikely that US and China are headed toward military confrontation any time soon, said Ian Brenner in TIME (January 2021). The gap between US and China’s military is narrowing. Gone are the days when a warning from Washington was enough. The Covid 19 pandemic would have also upset the financial plans of the Neo cons who mastermind these wars.

USA is still in shock after the storming of the Capitol. This event   has been recognized as a symptom of deep divisions in USA. The division is so deep that some members of Congress are opposing a second impeachment of Trump. We already have a flaming fire in this country and the impeachment is like pouring gasoline on it, said one US Senator.

Big Business however, is taking a strong line. USA’s blue chip companies said they would halt campaign donations to Congressmen who had   voted    to halt the Presidential elections. Some companies are not going to donate to either Republican or Democratic Party.   CEOs of the nation’s biggest corporations said they would not invest in the states of ‘seditious Congressmen.’

The division in the US has seeped down to churches and families, said TIME. Families and Churches have been deeply divided by Trumpism, TIME said. US economy still continued to be in difficulties, made worse by the Covid pandemic.  The USA will soon have two Presidents, pulling in opposite directions. The news has just come in that Trump has set up an Office of Former President.

The   international image of the US, which was always poor, is now even worse. US policy is to make countries dependent on them rather than improve the quality of life in those countries, said critics.   At the NBC coverage of the Biden inauguration, one reporter stated that 1 in 3 Europeans thought US cannot be trusted. 

China said that since 2001, the US has spent over $6 trillion on military operations and war, money that might have been invested in the infrastructure at home. China meanwhile, built its nation pouring more cement every three years than America did in the entire twentieth century.

USA however is still dreaming of a possible war. US would like to enlist Sri Lanka into this war.

 US has decided to woo Sri Lanka using India. India and USA have one thing in common. They both believe in antagonizing the countries they wish to dominate.

But in this case, India has persuaded the local media to draw attention to India. The local newspapers are suddenly full of India.  India’s education system, India’s constitution, India’s billionaires,  India’s freedom fighters, Indian judgments on contempt of court  and the new  India-Sri Lanka Friendship logo.

However, we need not be intimidated by India, said K Godage. Sri Lanka does not have a land border with India, making it more independent that most other SAARC countries.  Also Sri Lanka found during Eelam war IV, that India’s support   is not essential for Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka says it plans to stay neutral in any future   US –China war. It is possible to stay neutral only as long as the US-China War is a War of Words. But if it becomes   an armed conflict, then Sri Lanka cannot stay neutral, it will have to take sides. Countries which are physically in the war zone can never stay neutral. Switzerland and Thailand, are popularly supposed to have been neutral in World War II. They were not neutral. They struck deals with both sides. (See Appendix 1 and 2)

If war breaks out Sri Lanka will have to choose between US and China.  Yahapalana government tilted towards USA and India, at time when the US is declining and India turns out to be a non-starter.  A country is expected to link with the rising power not the fading power. US is fading, China is the emerging power.  Pohottu should link with China.

LSSP also thinks so. Under no circumstances should Sri Lanka support USA military aggression against China, said LSSP. Pakistan has taken China’s side and Sri Lanka too must do the same, Philippines President Duterte has said that he is not ready to go to war with China. European Union led by Germany has recognized that China is only interested in trade, and it is refusing to support the USA’s military attack on China, continued LSSP.

What right has the USA to claim that China poses a military danger to it, when its boundaries are thousands of miles away? It is the USA that has over 400 military bases around China, while China has only one outside its boundaries”, said LSSP. The SOFA agreement would have allowed thousands of armed troops from the USA to use the whole of Sri Lanka as a military base.

LSSP appeals to the Government to take a non-aligned stance and support China concluded LSSSP,  happily ignoring the fact that you cannot be ‘non-aligned’ and ‘supportive’ at one and the same time.

CA Chandraprema called for a Defence Pact with China. Trincomalee and Hambantota should be full of Chinese warships, he said. USA anticipated this. Hambantota Port might soon become a forward military base for China’s growing blue-water navy, complained USA, or dual use commercial/military facility. In 2019, Sri Lanka said No.  China has control over Hambantota port but it does not have rights to build a naval facility there.

China is blooming. China is the only one of the big economies that did not shrink in 2020. China’s gross domestic product expanded 6.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020, making the country one of the few to register positive growth for 2020. The Asian Development Bank says Asia will need US$ 16 trillion for infrastructure development between 2020 and 2030. China is the only country that has such money, pointed out Colombage.

China continues to leap ahead. China had published more high impact research papers than US in 23 of 30 ‘hot’ research fields, said Economist. This finding came from a 2019 survey by Elsevier and Nikkei . China in 2020 had more powerful supercomputers than any other nation. It had 214  supercomputers, compared with 113 for the US and 91 for the EU.

China is home to the world’s largest high-speed rail network, which stretches over 37,000 kilometers, and the fastest commercially operating train, the Shanghai Maglev. China has   developed a prototype for a new high-speed Maglev (magnetic levitation) train that is capable of reaching speeds of 620 kilometers (385 miles) per hour. The train runs on high-temperature superconducting (HTS) power that makes it look as if the train is floating along the magnetized tracks. The sleek 21-meter-long (69 feet) prototype was unveiled at Chengdu, in January 2021.

China has also developed a new high-speed bullet train designed for extremely cold climates.

The CR400AF-G train, which can operate at speeds of up to 350 kilometers per hour (217 mph) in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit), is part of the Fuxing series of high-speed electric multiple-unit (EMU) trains developed and operated by the state-owned China State Railway Group.

A number of countries, including Egypt,  UAE, Jordan, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Turkey, Bahrain, Dubai, Seychelles, are using the COVID-19 vaccines produced by China. And many more countries, including Chile, Malaysia,  Philippines, Thailand and Nigeria have ordered Chinese vaccines, said China.

China, unlike the USA  is already at war. China needs the trade routes across the Indian Ocean and intends to protect them. India is not an exporting nation the way China is, observed Chandraprema. 

US  sent an aircraft carrier group  sailing between Taiwan and the Philippines into the South China Sea.  China immediately sent large groups of fighters and bombers into   Taiwanese airspace two days in a row. This was not illegal, said Gwynne Dyer. The Chinese aircraft only entered Taiwan’s unilaterally declared “Air Defence Identification Zone”, which is not sovereign Taiwanese territory.

India and China have, according to reports, mobilized troops and tanks all along the 3488 km Line of Control from Ladakh to Arunchal Pradesh.  The aggressor is China. China has constructed a settlement  of 101 houses, inside Indian Territory in Arunachal Pradesh. There was no such village in satellite images taken in August 2019.  They appeared in images taken in November 2020 .

China has  also  tried to  enter Indian Territory  in Sikkim twice, first  in  May 2020 . In January 2021 troops again tried to cross the border into Indian territory, near Naku La. There was a brawl  and soldiers on both sides were injured.

India  approached the Seychelles in 2020, with a proposal to build a military facility on Assumption Island, which will include an airstrip, naval jetty and a garrison of 500. There was a strong protest against it  and the proposal was abandoned. China however, has a presence in Seychelles. China has built a new Parliament building and a Supreme Court in the Seychelles. China has also donated two light aircraft and two naval vessels.

Sri Lanka has always had a cordial relationship with China. China and Sri Lanka have had long standing diplomatic, religious and trade links. There were   cordial diplomatic relations between the Sinhala king and the Chinese emperor in ancient and medieval times. This was an unbroken relationship which continued through various Chinese dynasties. A Chinese coin from a particular dynasty, which is rarely found in foreign countries was found in Sri Lanka . 

The Buddhist link is well known, with Fa Hsien coming here and Sinhala bhikkunis going there to advise on Buddhism, probably Mahayana. Sinhala ships went to China. They  received special mention in the Chinese  records. It was said that of all the ships coming to China, the stairways in the Sinhala ships were the biggest.

We were able to end the Eelam war because China threw its weight behind us and sent us the required arms. It was China that supplied much needed weapons, at a time when Western countries refused to do so citing human rights concerns, recalled Sri Lanka . China has always supported Sri Lanka at UN and HRC.  Only China condemned India when India did its parippu drop in 1987 violating Sri Lanka airspace.

In 2009, when the war ended, India and Japan funded important projects, but the main support was from China. If we did not take what China offered, today, 11 years on we would be still be where we were in 2009, said Colombage.

China had helped financially from the time of the Eelam war and much of this was grants and not loans.  The loans also were low interest and affordable. China is offering trillions of dollars which no other country can match, but they do not bully us. When the west helps it leads to bankruptcy as in the case of Greece, said Palitha Kohona.

Present day Sri Lanka recognizes modern Chinese culture. When University of Colombo held its 100th anniversary celebrations in January 2021, Faculty of Arts had a research session on ’Understanding Chinese language and culture.

China has been very supportive of Sri Lanka and very encouraging. China told Sri Lanka in 2016 You have 65,000 kilometers of land.  You    always say a small island country. No. Sri Lanka is a big country. It is a great country. You have good culture. You have long history. You have a legal system. Education is okay. You should be proud of the culture, history and your country’s conditions. So why do you call yourself a tiny island”.

The rise of China has seriously challenged the unipolar orientation of international relations, but the world must now come to terms with China.  Western countries cannot continue to treat China as an outcast and do its utmost to undermine its development and influence, said analysts. They must realize that trying to contain and confront China is a waste of time. It is hoped that West will adjust to China’s new assertive and confident style and accept peaceful coexistence with a powerful China, analysts said.   On that hopeful note, I end this set of essays on the US-China war. (Continued).

APPENDIX NO 1

Switzerland is well known for its supposed neutrality in WWII. It was never neutral. Germany planned to invade and annex Switzerland, but got diverted elsewhere. Skirmishes between German and Swiss troops took place on the northern border of Switzerland throughout the war.

Both sides violated Swiss airspace. 6,304 Allied aircraft violated Swiss airspace during the war. Nazi Germany repeatedly violated Swiss airspace. During the Battle of France, German aircraft violated Swiss airspace at least 197 times.

Switzerland served as an espionage camp for both sides. In 1942, the United States established the Office of Strategic Services in the city of Bern. Switzerland turned back or deported over 20,000 Jewish refugees during the Second World War but did take in over 50,000 refugees, mostly rich Jews.

Switzerland continued trading with Germany through the war. Germany became the main market for Swiss weapons components. Germany became the largest importer of Swiss goods including specialized items such as time fuses. Swiss companies made fat profits from this. Export credit given to Germany meant Switzerland was actively financing the Nazi war machine.

Switzerland helped finance Hitler’s war. Swiss banks loaned money to German enterprises which were involved in armaments.  Between 1940 and 1945, Germany sold 1.3 billion francs worth of gold to Swiss Banks. A total of 581,000 francs’ worth of gold taken from Holocaust victims was sold to Swiss banks.

APPENDIX NO 2

Thailand in World War II was never neutral.  Instead it achieved the rare feat of supporting and attacking both sides, and gaining from both. Japan invaded Thailand in December 1941 and Thailand signed a treaty of military alliance with Japan. Thailand thought this preferable to outright conquest. Prime Minister Pibul Songgram cooperated with Japan. However, Thailand retained control of its armed forces and internal affairs.

Thailand wanted to use WWII to establish a Greater Thailand and persuaded Japan to get back Thai territory taken by France. France gave back some territory from Laos and Cambodia, but not all. And they had to pay for it. Thailand also took four Malay states. Thai army annexed the Shan states of Burma and established a border with China near Keng Tung. Thailand was also interested in the activities of Mussolini and Berlin advised Japan to keep a close watch on the Thai, lest they turn into an “Oriental Italy.”

Then things soured between Thailand and Japan. There were several reasons, one was that the Japanese claimed the right to import goods duty-free, which reduced Thailand’s revenues. Thai government   split into two factions, pro- Japan and anti- Japan. Anti- Japan faction the Free Thai Movement,  was a well-organized, pro-Allied resistance movement .It  engaged in espionage and sabotage on behalf of the Allies. Thanks to this, after the war, Thailand  was not punished for its support for Japan.

Thai government declared war on Britain and the United States on January 25, 1942 . The Thai ambassador in London delivered Thailand’s declaration of war to the British government, but  the Thai ambassador in Washington ,  refused to do so. Accordingly, the United States refrained from declaring war on Thailand but the British did. In 1945, Britain’s  Indian 7th Infantry Division landed,  in Thailand, accompanied by Edwina Mountbatten.

When the tide began to turn against Japan, the Thai government started distancing itself from the Japanese. And used this to wriggle out of the need to surrender. Thanks to the  work of the Free Thai Movement, the United States  did not treat Thailand as an enemy country in post-war peace negotiations.

Before signing the peace treaty, however, Britain demanded war reparations in the form of rice shipments to Malaya. An Anglo-Thai Peace Treaty was signed on 1 January 1946. France refused to permit admission of Thailand to the United Nations until Indochinese territories taken by Thailand during the war were returned. The Soviet Union insisted on the repeal of anti-Communist legislation.  ( End)

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