YAHAPALANA AND “WORLD WAR III” Part 6
Posted on October 15th, 2018

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Yahapalana has repeatedly drawn attention to Sri Lanka’s geographical position in the Indian Ocean. The fact that Sri Lanka is in the middle of the Indian Ocean has been known for ages, but no one bothered about it, except the geographers and the diplomats. Now for the first time considerable publicity is given to Sri Lanka’s geographical positioning and how important it is.  This is preparation for World War III and Sri Lanka’s role in it.

We are told that Sri Lanka sits in the middle of one of the busiest sea lanes in the world. All sea routes, from East Africa, Middle East, Pakistan, West India, East India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, and Indonesia converge on Sri Lanka.  Island ran a map which showed the sea routes, from east Africa, Middle East, Pakistan, west India, East India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, and Indonesia all converging on Sri Lanka.

These sea lanes are also some of the most strategically important in the world.  The most important Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) run past Sri Lanka making it a strategic location for the control and safety of the sea lanes and communication lines, said analysts.

The sea lanes that go past Sri Lanka are vital sea lanes feeding some of Asia largest and rapidly growing economics. All of China’s and Japan’s energy resources from the Persian Gulf transits Sri Lanka and the island has the potential to control or impede the free flow of these resources to China or Japan.  Half of the world’s container traffic passes through Sri Lanka and the island has the potential to control or impede this as well, continued analysts. Sri Lanka of course cannot stop anyone from going past, it is not powerful enough. We all know that. This is preparation for the arrival of a foreign power.

Sri Lanka, under Yahapalana is blossoming into a centre for Indian Ocean Region studies”. The Pathfinder Foundation has done many studies and held many symposia on the Indian Ocean Region”. The Indian Ocean is becoming the key ocean together with the Pacific Ocean, observed Colombage. There is now a shift from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to Indo–Pacific. The Bay of Bengal, which contains Sri Lanka, also becomes important as the major corridor that connects the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

There was a conference Indian Ocean: Defining our Future” in Colombo in October 2018. It was initiated by the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and was held at Temple Trees. This conference, attended by India, China, USA, UN and others, aimed to create a platform for Indian Ocean littoral states and major maritime users to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern.  It was given the diplomatic status of a Track 1.5 exercise, something the public have never heard of. Track 1.5 diplomacy involves discussion among government officials and non government persons such as business leaders.

The conference notice said this conference is held at a time when the Indian Ocean has emerged as one of the world’s busiest and most critical trade corridors, carrying two thirds of global oil shipments and a third of bulk cargo and hosting the most critical Sea Lanes of Communication directly impacting global trade and economy.

The speakers and participants will focus their discussions on four thematic areas, namely:  The Indian Ocean Economy: The New Global Growth Pole;  Life below Water: Reframing the Oceans as Development Spaces; An End to Uncertainty: Safety and Security at Sea; and Reinforcing International Law in the Indian Ocean:  United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and Emerging Issues.

Representatives of 40 countries attended the conference. At the conference Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe said that Indian Ocean has the potential to become a growth pole in the world economy. He highlighted the need to maintain Freedom of Navigation and Freedom of Digital connectivity in the Indian Ocean for the region to grow and prosper.

Yahapalana’s  ‘Indian Ocean Region’  song is  continuing. The annual international Air symposium conducted by Sri Lanka Air Force in October 2018 is on the topic, ‘Air strategy in substantiating the geo strategic importance of Sri Lanka . It will consider geo strategic deployment of air power for meeting national, regional and global challenges. The conference will also explore the condition and necessities of maritime security in the Indian Ocean with respect to the  geopolitical perspective of Sri Lanka and discuss the role of collaboration..

In order to hide the emergence of the Bay of Bengal as a theatre of war, other aspects of the Indian Ocean are emphasized. The Indian Ocean, we are told,  supports trade and business in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, said Japan.   It is a  Sea of Commerce, said Japan.  , Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe  said that today the Indian Ocean has become one of the key development points in the world and Sri Lanka is right in the middle of it.   The Silk Route and the Japan-Africa-India Corridor is also opening up with Sri Lanka being strategically located and Sri Lanka must grab this opportunity.”Sri Lanka must use its geographical location to tap into the growth that is happening around it.

Sri Lanka is  told,  to its surprise, by the Prime Minister  that it has many responsibilities towards the IOR. Small Sri Lanka must take the  lead in keeping sea lanes of communication open by ensuring freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka must also take the initiative to lessen tension in the Indian Ocean region. Sri Lanka has the opportunity of leveraging its strategic location and friendly relations with the key maritime nations to take the initiative to lessen tension in the Indian Ocean region, concluded  Wickremasinghe.

What is important about Sri Lanka , is not the nonsensical suggestions listed above. What is important about Sri Lanka is  that it has Trincomalee .Sri Lanka’s location, coupled with Trincomalee  port, is  vitally important for military activity. Trincomalee  harbour is ideal for warships. A whole fleet can  get into it and stay there  Trincomalee  is  also Ideal for nuclear submarines Given the depth of the harbour, nuclear submarines are able to dive low and stay put, out of  reach of radar and sonar detection,”  A fleet, so protected, was in a position to dominate the Bay of Bengal.

Robert Kaplan in his book Monsoon: Indian Ocean and the future of American power” (2011) says the  Indian Ocean is the ocean of the 21 century.’  It is here that American foreign policy must concentrate if the United States is to remain relevant in  the future.

“Sri Lanka holds an important location in the Indian Ocean and it is vital that we maintain a strong relationship with them” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. James O. Eifert, Air National Guard assistant to the commander of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), in his speech in July 2018. Sri Lanka’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean makes it an ideal staging area for U.S. forces to provide assistance in the region.

The Yahapalana government is openly on the side of USA. In the process Sri Lanka has lost its dignity and the  neutrality that it enjoyed when it was non-aligned, observed Ladduwahetty. A string of US dignitaries have visited Sri Lanka. The latest arrival is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells  who came in October 2018. She  would stress the importance US-Sri Lanka relationship,  for the Indo Pacific region,  specially the growing bilateral defence relationship seen as an area of particular promise,  said brief issued by the embassy.

Tissa Vitarana said that US is working towards  establishing a base at Trincomalee   for its Seventh fleet. US is  also trying to divide the country and get the army to vacate the strategically important locations, he added.

Under the Yahapalana” government, military co-operation with the US has increased. In 2018 the US announced  it would grant Sri Lanka $39 million to boost maritime security. There are frequent US military visits  and joint exercises on training Sri Lankan troops

US takes its  military working session with  other countries very seriously said TIME. USA ‘s joint operational military exercises in which ships,    planes, ground forces and special ops practice  are actually  executing defined war plans. War games should not be toyed with. They are necessary for successful war .

However military co-operation exists  with many other countries, too. India continues to offer top slots at its National Defence Academy and other military establishments for senior and mid-career officers. China, which has been a staunch backer of Sri Lanka by providing most of the military hardware for the separatist war against the Tiger guerrillas, also offers training slots in its academies for Sri Lankan security forces personnel  .

Australia is also  providing training.  SLNS ‘Sindurala’ took part in the Exercise KAKADU 18, of the Royal Australian Navy,  held  in Darwin, Australia in September 2018.This is the first time that Sri Lanka had participated in this exercise. KAKADU is the Royal Australian Navy’s premier regional maritime engagement. It includes a harbour phase and a sea phase, and provides an opportunity for  nations to strengthen security and humanitarian partnerships across the Indo-Pacific region.

Yahapalana  announced in August  2018  that Russia will  become the latest partner to train Sri Lankan troops and extend defence co-operation. This is under a Joint Russia-Sri Lanka Working Group on Military Technical Co-operation. Russian troops will train their Sri Lankan counterparts in the Army, Navy and the Air Force, at training academies in Russia and on special visits for joint training exercises in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has had cordial relations with Japan for several decades and there has been much useful aid from Japan, such as the Dental Faculty, Peradeniya. In addition to this, in October 2015 Japan and Sri Lanka finalized a ‘Comprehensive Partnership’ dealing with trade, national development, reconciliation and peace building ,maritime cooperation  and  Human resource development. The partnership should be examined against the backdrop of joint US-Japan-India response to the growing Chinese challenge, said Shamindra Ferdinando. Japan has called for joint-action with other like-minded countries” to counter China’s growing influence in Sri Lanka .

Yahapalana government has  now established close military links with Japan. This is something new. Japan Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera visited Sri Lanka in August 2018  for a three day official visit to discuss military cooperation, in an apparent effort to counter China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean, added the media. This is the first time a Japanese Defense Minister is visiting Sri Lanka. This visit has signaled that Tokyo is wading deeper into the Indian Ocean, where India and China are increasingly vying for control and influence, said local analysts.

Onodera visited the Colombo, Hambantota and Trincomalee ports. Japan wants Hambantota port to be free of military activities said Onedera. A delegation of Japanese diplomats and defense officials   toured Hambantota port In  August, 2018 and Akebono”, a Maritime Self-Defense Force ship, became the first naval vessel to drop anchor at Hambantota in April  2018.

The third Sri Lanka -Japan Dialogue on Maritime Security, Safety and Oceanic Issues was held in July 2018. The discussion centered ,inter alia, on the  situation in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean region, cooperation on ports and shipping, cooperation in the areas of maritime safety and security  . Sri Lanka and Japan agreed to enhance defense collaboration between the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces and the Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Air Force and Sri Lanka Coast Guard in order to ensure maritime security in the Indian Ocean region .

A group of Tri-forces was given training by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) at the Mattala International Airport in August 2018. The group was trained in warfare submarines and combat air craft. The Japanese National JMSDF is known for its anti-submarine warfare and mine sweeping capabilities. For the training they brought a Lockheed P-3 Orion, a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft,

Two Japanese warships ships – ‘Kaga’ and ‘Inazuma’ belonging to JMSDF arrived at the Port of Colombo on goodwill visit in September 2018. ‘Kaga’ is a 248m-long vessel with a displacement of 19,950 tons. Its crew is consisted of 400 naval personnel. ‘Inazuma’ is 151m in length with a displacement of 4,550 tons. It is manned by a crew of 170. The crew members of the two vessels took part in  sports and other programmes arranged for them by the Sri Lanka Navy. Government will construct  massive scale ships with the assistance of Japan, announced  Yahapalana, getting carried away.

Japan has donated Coast Guard ships valued at Rs. 1.8 billion to Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Coast Guard (SLCG) commissioned two Japanese-built Fast Patrol Vessels (FPVs). The FPVs were custom-made for SLCG at Sumidagawa Shipyard in Japan and are equipped to perform maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, and marine pollution and oil spill control. They are 30 metres in length, have an endurance of 750 nautical miles and a displacement of 123 tons each. Japan has also provided training to  the Sri Lanka Coast Guard.

Japan is part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue consisting of USA, India, Australia and Japan. This Quad is an anti-China combine. Since USA and India are not popular with the Sri Lanka public, the Quad, especially USA would have decided to push Japan forward. Japan has been a consistent source of development funds and political support for Sri Lanka. “Japan is a better bet for the U.S. to counter China in Sri Lanka than India, because Japan is trusted by most Sri Lankans and the Indians are not.

Japan needs the sea routes just as much as China does, and they are now moving in to tap the goodwill they have cultivated independently in Sri Lanka, which no other country can match,” one Western diplomatic source said. However, Sri Lanka will not know at any time whether the four powers  are acting individually or in collusion, observed Ladduwahetty. ( CONTINUED)

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