Posted on October 6th, 2019


REVISED 7.10.2019

The United States of America wishes to continue as the sole world power, but China is also eyeing the position. China is USA’s main adversary for world power. China has moved into the Indian Ocean, linking with Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Therefore USA also wants to station itself there. Dominance of   the Indo –Pacific region has now become important, said USA.

USA admits that it is not located in the Indian Ocean. USA is in the Pacific Ocean. However, USA says it is linked to its Indo-Pacific neighbors through unbreakable bonds of shared history, culture, commerce, and values.” It   therefore has an enduring commitment to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific in which all nations, regardless of size, are able to exercise their sovereignty free from coercion by other countries.  

United States wants to see a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific that respects such principles as peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation, open and transparent investment environments, and strong and responsible governing institutions, it added.

Now let us turn to what the US is really planning to do. 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.

The US can no longer fight wars by itself. Analysts observed that USA can no longer scare away countries, by dispatching carriers or guided missile cruisers to loiter menacingly offshore. In 1996, USA sent two carriers to the Taiwan Strait, leading Beijing to back down from its war games off Taiwan Today, however, such a deployment would no longer elicit the same response.

New classes of quiet diesel submarines and new developments in mine and torpedo technology make operations close to tense coastlines far more dangerous today than in the past. As a result, U.S. aircraft carriers are no longer immune from risk when entering waters within range of enemy forces. Also there is the deployment of Russian and Chinese area denial systems, like the so-called carrier killer DF-21 antiship missile developed in the last decade by China. Its range of over 1,000 miles far outstrips the range of any warplane on U.S. flight decks today. Sailing a U.S. carrier strike force through the Taiwan Strait these days, in a show of support for pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong, for instance, would risk catastrophe, said ‘Foreign Policy’.

Following this, analysts observed in October 2019, that the U.S. Navy isn’t ready to take on Iran either, though militarily Iran could be considered a second-tier power. Iran does not yet possess anything as sophisticated as China’s DF-21. However, its domestically produced Noor antiship missile (itself a reverse-engineered rip-off of an earlier Chinese cruise missile) is dangerous at over 100 miles. In 2016, the USS Mason, a destroyer ship, discovered this when it was targeted by several Noor missiles.

The combination of these missiles and Iran’s fleet of fast and cheap patrol boats has been enough to keep the USS Lincoln out of the Persian Gulf as tensions between Iran and the United States increased. Naval air power, which since World War II has been the main weapon in the U.S. arsenal, is quite suddenly nearly irrelevant. Forward-looking officers in the U.S. Navy have been warning that this day would come for years said analysts.

Now let us return to Sri Lanka .Head of the US Indo-Pacific command, Davidson, made a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2019, where    he identified China as the enemy  and Indo Pacific as USA’s ‘priority theater’ of war. He called for ‘combat-ready deterrence’ to ‘win before fighting’ and, if necessary, ‘be ready to fight and win.’ The armed forces are to be ‘forward-postured in the region.’ This document reads like a blueprint for war against China, said Lasanda Kurukulasuriya. She observed that the document describes Sri Lanka as a significant strategic opportunity in the Indian Ocean”

But America is no longer able to fight alone. It needs support. The challenges we face in the Indo-Pacific extend beyond what any single country can address alone, admitted USA. USA needs a Joint Force that can act as an effective deterrence and also win in a conflict. US therefore assembled the Quad, (America, India, Australia) Japan) and now there is QUAD plus, with UK and France added.

US recognized India as a “Major Defence Partner” in 2016, a designation that allows India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies from America at par with that of the US’ closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation into the future.

In 2019 United States Senate has passed a legislative provision that brings India on the same level as NATO countries and countries like Israel and South Korea for increasing defence cooperation. This also provides for increased US-India defence cooperation in the Indian Ocean in the areas of humanitarian assistance, counterterrorism, counter-piracy and maritime security. US had turned India into its proxy and India will now assume some of the security functions carried out by US, said one analysts .

USA is now   seeking further Alliances and Partnerships, with like-minded allies and partners into a networked security alliance  in the Indo-Pacific. Within South Asia, we have our Major Defense Partnership with India and are pursuing emerging partnerships with Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Nepal, said Davidson.

 US has made it clear that it   needs the support of Sri Lanka for its control of Bay of Bengal. Thomas J.Vajda US Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State dealing with South and Central Asia   visited Colombo in February 2019 and said ‘we view Sri Lanka as a critical partner in the region.’ As the United States increasingly turns its focus to more robust engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, it also looks to Sri Lanka as a valued friend and a partner to be a leader in that process, he said.

Vadja also decided to woo Sri Lanka with some flattery. He spoke of Sri Lanka’s important role in the region. Your country has a hugely influential role to play in the region said Vadja. Located at the nexus of the Indo-Pacific, Sri Lanka has the opportunity to shape the region’s future, said Vadja.

 US Indo-Pacific Command Chief Admiral Philip Davidson told the US Senate’s Armed Services Committee, during a Congressional hearing, in January 2019 that Sri Lanka was   a significant strategic opportunity in the Indian Ocean. Despite the political upheaval in Sri Lanka, it is in America’s interests to continue military collaboration and cooperation with Sri Lankan Forces he said. Military-to-military relationship continues to strengthen between the two nations., said Davidson.

The United States and Sri Lanka agreed to expand military-to-military cooperation” said a  joint statement from the Foreign Ministry in  May 2019. The cooperation included demining, joint military engagements, Sri Lanka’s peacekeeping operations, human rights training for Sri Lankan officers, and visits by U.S. ships and military officials. The use of the term ‘joint engagements’ (rather than ‘joint exercises’) is significant as it suggests a combat role, commented Lasanda..

U.S. Ambassador stated in January 2019 that “U.S.-Sri Lanka security cooperation includes a variety of joint exercises and training,  helping  among other things,  interoperability. This cooperation was designed by both countries to address our mutual security interests. Every joint exercise, every training in disaster response, is done at the invitation of our Sri Lankan hosts.

The Sri Lankan Navy is a well-trained and professional force with the potential to contribute to multi-lateral maritime interoperability in the Indian Ocean, said Davidson. The  US Indo-Pacific command  would focus in 2019 on increasing navy-to-navy engagement with Sri Lanka.

The last joint US-SL naval exercise,   ‘Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise (CARAT) 2019,’  took place in Hambantota in  April 2019, with the participation of hundreds of personnel.     The two US ships participating were Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS ‘Spruance’ and Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USS ‘Millinocket,’ which is part of the United States Military Sealift Command. The 103m long ‘Millinocket’ has a displacement of 2362 tons, while ‘Spruance’ is 155.3m long and has a displacement capacity of 9580 tons.

SLNS Sayurala  and SLNS Samudura participated from Sri Lanka. The exercise was meant to strengthen the maritime security and cooperation through small boat handling, diving exercises, anti-terrorist operations.

Sri Lanka navy has also held exercises with Indian navy. The six-day joint exercise SLINEX 2019    took place in September at Vizag port. Sri Lanka has sent SLNS Sindhurala, an advanced offshore patrol vessel which had been constructed by India’s state-run defence firm Goa Shipyards, and SLNS Suranimala, a fast missile vessel to the Vizag port for the exercise.

The Indian Navy is being represented by the missile corvette INS Khukri and the Naval offshore patrol vessel INS Sumedha. India has also deputed integral helicopters in addition to shore-based maritime patrol aircraft in the event. the four ships and their crew will participate in drills including aircraft tracking, cross-deck flying, gun firing, visit board search and seizure procedures, underway replenishment and navigational manoeuvres in the sea.

Yahapalana government is  also expanding the Sri Lanka navy,  in keeping with  the SLN’s Maritime strategy 2025 Sri Lanka  plans to build a 20-ship Navy by 2025. Why do you need a peacetime fleet bigger than one available during the conflict, asked the media.

 The Navy authorities replied  that is was necessary to meet present and future maritime surveillance, patrolling as well as search-and-rescue needs.  Even in the absence of war, we need a larger fleet to guarantee our maritime rights and interests and also to meet our international obligations. Our SAR (Search and Rescue) region is nearly 27 times that of land area therefore an expanded fleet is necessary.

Sri Lanka Air Force held an  Air symposium on October 2018  attended by over 40 delegates from 20 countries. The topic was  ‘ Air strategy in substantiating the geo strategic importance of Sri Lanka. The conference discussed geo strategic deployment of air power in meeting national, regional and global challenges.  The conference  also explored the conditions and necessities of maritime security in the Indian Ocean with respect to geopolitical perspective of Sri Lanka and  possible collaboration.

In  2019 the US embassy wanted to have a display of US Air Force aircraft in Colombo .They suggested conducting an air parade over the skies of the Galle Face Green using aircraft from the USS John Stennis, the Nimitz class nuclear powered carrier strike group which was  lying  off the shores of Sri Lanka. The US embassy thought  Sri Lankans would love this. The Foreign Ministry did not think they would. Their opinion was quite  different .The idea was abandoned.

The general opinion in Sri Lanka  was that USA  wanted to turn Trincomalee  into a US base. Firstly, USA  would like to have Trincomalee  as a counterweight to China-controlled Hambantota, which sits on the edge of one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, said analysts.  “It will be about balance not containment of China,” they said  Hambantota Port might soon become a forward military base for China’s growing blue-water navy, said USA. This was denied by Sri Lanka. While China has control over Sri Lanka’s US$1.5 billion Hambantota port city, it does not have rights to build a naval facility there Sri Lanka said.

Secondly, Trincomalee would be a  useful, highly strategic base for the US navy. Trincomalee  is one of the world’s largest natural deep water harbours. Entrance to the harbor is four miles wide and five across. Inner harbor which lies in the north covers about 12 sq miles and is securely enclosed by outcrops huge rocks and small islets. It has great depth.

 In the time of sailing ships the harbour could ensure the safety of a whole fleet during the monsoon from October to March. A fleet so protected was in a position to dominate the Bay of Bengal and the eastern sea. Thus any power that controlled this harbour had a great advantage from a naval and strategic perspective. Trincomalee  is ideal for nuclear submarines.  They can dive low in the inner harbour and effectively avoid radar and sonar detection.

However, there is  virulent resistance in Sri Lanka  to the idea of an American base on Sri Lanka soil. This resistance, despite repeated government denials, showed just how strongly citizens feel a foreign military base would hurt national interests, said observers. A foreign base raises questions of sovereignty and foreign interference, they observed. 

There will be opposition from outside too, they said. Neighboring countries such as India  will not be happy either. India said it  is keeping a close watch as protests grow in Sri Lanka over a proposed SOFA pact with the US, which could enable the setting up of an American military base in Trincomalee . We are keeping a close watch as this has strategic significance for India.

US denied that it intends to establish a military base in Sri Lanka. United States has no intention of building a base here. Instead, we are building relationships that will help keep both our countries safe, US embassy said. A base has never been a part of the relationship nor have there ever been discussions aimed at establishing one,  said the embassy.

David Brewster, a senior research fellow at the Australian National University researching Indian Ocean security, said that  The United States has no need for a military presence in Sri Lanka.” Ranil Wickremesinghe said that US navy is “not a fleet of fishing trawlers and they do not need any bases in Sri Lanka”.

Nowadays the US strategy is not to establish full-blown, costly military bases overseas but to use the ‘Lily-pad’ concept, whereby it increases its force deployment globally, but with a smaller footprint. This affords a more nimble capability to move equipment and personnel where they are required in a contingency, observed  Lasanda Kurukulasuriya.

This confirms that what the US wants is  a hub. The  U.S. navy has its eye on Sri Lanka’s northeastern port of Trincomalee to serve as a logistics hub, said analysts. The US Navy announced in December, 2018, the setting up of what it called logistic hub in Sri Lanka to secure support, supplies and services at sea, reported the media. The purpose of this hub, said the US 7th fleet,   would be to secure “mission-critical supplies and services to U.S. Navy ships transiting through and operating in the Indian Ocean.”

The US Navy first operated this air logistic hub in late August 2018. Under the ACSA, the US Navy transferred cargo between planes at the Bandaranaike International Airport. The cargo was meant for the strike group at Trincomalee. Experts think the move was a test run to ascertain timing and other procedures for re-supply using the Colombo airport as a  launching pad during an exigency. ( Continued)

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