The recent joint US-Sri Lankan military exercise in Trincomalee, coming after Colombo announcing the ‘arrest’ of a few police personnel for the massacre of five Tamil students in Trincomalee, signals that the USA is again sending a message to China that it still considers the island in the Indian Ocean Region as a US-Indian territory, says a geopolitical analyst in Trincomalee. The development also signals to Tamils that powers locked in the geopolitical game are only seeking eyewash and token responses from the Sri Lankan State. Political solution will never come unless masses overpower the rotten military-geostrategy approach of the powers, forcing them to seek alternatives, the analyst said.
Back in 2006, before the genocidal onslaught on Vanni, the USA conducted an ‘unprecedented exercise’ in Hambantota sending the same messages to China and to the Tamils, as a report authored by the US-based global intelligence company Stratfor at that time had claimed, the analyst further writes reproducing the report by the US-based intelligence company that had claimed in 2006 that the USA was contributing to Rajapaksa regime’s war against the Tamil Tigers.
“The United States has a large interest in Sri Lanka. On a strategic level, the island sits on some of the most important shipping lanes in the world near many geopolitical hotspots, and has one of the finest ports in the world, Trincomalee,” was the wordings of the 2006 analyses by the Stratfor.
One should take note that a CSIS report, issued six years later in 2012, was of the view Sri Lanka was the most pro-U.S. country in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) till 2008.
“Sri Lanka has traditionally practiced a non-alignment policy but before 2008 was arguably the most pro-U.S. country in the region, signing up to a range of U.S.-led initiatives such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, the Container Security Initiative, acquisition and cross-servicing agreements, and intelligence-sharing. As the Sri Lankan civil war intensified and neared its conclusion, relations with the United States and the West grew more strained, and China began filling the void with significant weapons exports and economic assistance.” (U.S. Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment, August 2012, p. 39).
Obviously, this indicates the U.S. need for either enforcing Rajapaksa regime to fall in line with the de-facto position or replacing the regime with another one that would re-instate the de-facto alliance as it was before 2008.
Whatever the ways, ‘Sri Lanka’ is needed, as an ally to the United States is the underlying position.
This is why the USA has taken the affair of tabling resolutions in UN Human Rights Council, seeking to steer the process by limiting the ‘play rules’ to be Rajapaksa’s own LLRC and India imposed Provincial Councils.
It is in this light the Tamils should see why the USA and its outfits are hoodwinking the Tamils not to alter the play rules through a mass struggle in the region as well as in the West.
Such outfits manipulate Pro-Eelam diaspora groups and personalities among Eezham Tamils to carryout a blatant ‘pro USA’ campaign.
A similar campaign is also being taken forward through Colombo-Mannaar-Jaffna axis in the island.
In Tamil Nadu, maneuverings by these forces were successfully challenged by the awaken students during the mass agitation.
The pro-US outfits are particular in making Tamils not to view the resolutions tabled by the USA as undermining the Tamil interest, especially the intentional failure in not welcoming or calling for an international investigation on Sri Lanka. The US resolution only took ‘note’ of the demand for international investigation as a measure of veiled threat against the Rajapaksa regime.
In fact, what the USA seeks from the Rajapaksa regime is to come up with eyewash measures like the recent arrest of a few SL police personnel on the killing of five Tamil students in Trincomalee in relieving the Sri Lankan regime from the global responsibility in delivering justice.
Whether the Rajapaksa regime would ‘mend its ways‘ to the U.S. designs in reverting back to the regime’s de-facto U.S. alliance during 2005 to 2008 or not, what Eezham Tamils should take note of is to take forward the political struggle with the focus of causing an attitudinal change in the powers that continue to abet the genocidal State of Sri Lanka.
The ‘Stratfor report’ from October 20, 2006 is reproduced in full below:
Sri Lanka: Exercises with U.S. Send a Message to China
October 20, 2006 | 0241 GMT
The U.S. Marine Corps will participate in unprecedented exercises with the Sri Lankan navy at the end of October, deploying more than 1,000 Marines and large support ships to drill with the Sri Lankan armed forces on amphibious and counterinsurgency operations. Coincidentally, the exercise is occurring on beaches in Hambantota — precisely where the Chinese are planning to build oil and bunker facilities.
Elements of the U.S. 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked the ships of the USS Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) to travel to Sri Lanka for large-scale amphibious exercises with the Sri Lankan armed forces, slated for the last week of October. The MEU is equipped with a robust amphibious assault capability, including armored amphibious assault vehicles and landing craft. The ESG’s smaller amphibious ships — the USS Dubuque and USS Comstock — and their embarked Marines will reportedly play a prominent role in the maneuvers.
The exercises will no doubt threaten the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which is part of the U.S. reasoning behind the exercises. However, the site of the maneuvers — off the southern beaches of Hambantoa, where China is planning to build modern harbor facilities — shows that India likely signed off on this venture as a way to signal to China that the Indian Ocean is U.S.-Indian territory.
The United States has a large interest in Sri Lanka. On a strategic level, the island sits on some of the most important shipping lanes in the world near many geopolitical hotspots, and has one of the finest ports in the world, Trincomalee. On a tactical level, training the Sri Lankan armed forces in amphibious maneuvers will allow the United States to test its counterinsurgency tactics by proxy against the Tigers, who will surely bear the brunt of any new Sri Lankan military capability. The Tigers are the only militants who boast an operational naval wing: the Sea Tigers. The Sea Tigers possess a wide range of capabilities, including custom-built fast suicide bomb boats, and were behind the Oct. 18 suicide attack on Sri Lanka’s southern Galle port. U.S. training and joint exercises will allow the Sri Lankan armed forces to test out Washington’s newest theories on littoral battle without putting any U.S. soldiers at risk.
The United States also hopes increased pressure on the Tigers will force the group to seriously enter peace talks. Furthermore, any degradation in the Tigers’ ability to smuggle arms will take a large link out of the black market weapons chain that stretches from Bangladesh to Indonesia.
Whatever Washington’s reasons for the exercises, the maneuvers could not happen without India’s permission. Though New Delhi is not nearly the geopolitical powerhouse that Washington is, the United States has anointed India as its junior partner in the Indian Ocean. The United States — and other members of the Sri Lankan Donors Group, which assists with post-tsunami rebuilding and brokers peace talks — traditionally consults with India on all decisions related to Colombo.
It is precisely this interest in regional pre-eminence that led India to give the go-ahead for U.S. forces to participate in a major training exercise geared toward fighting the Tamil insurgency. After all, India cannot risk offending its own sizable Tamil minority if there is not a substantial reward involved. In this case, the reward is the chance to send a targeted message to one particular country with the U.S.-Sri Lankan exercises: China.
The much-ballyhooed Indo-Chinese rivalry is not nearly as heated as many believe. Significant geographical factors — such as the Himalayan Mountains and thousands of miles of jungle — prevent India and China from having any real disputes. However, the countries share a common naval frontier near the Strait of Malacca and Singapore. The United States, with Indian assistance, intends to maintain the Indian Ocean as its own strategic waterway. China’s intrusion into the area by building ports at Gwadar in Pakistan, in Myanmar and now possibly in Bangladesh irks New Delhi. Thus, it is no coincidence that the exact area of the U.S.-Sri Lankan exercises is Hambantota, the very harbor that China announced it would begin developing for Colombo in 2005.
There are also indications that the relationship between India and China is becoming increasingly frayed. China was likely the major stumbling block to India’s Shashi Tharoor becoming U.N. secretary-general, and India has been blocking Chinese investments in infrastructure due to security concerns. India, already deeply rooted in its protectionist traditions, has focused its rising economic nationalist agenda primarily on Chinese assets. For example, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Ports Holdings has faced delays in obtaining security clearances from New Delhi, and, as a result, has been unable to commence operations on port projects at Mumbai and Chennai.
Chinese President Hu Jintao’s upcoming visit, during India’s National Day, will give both sides a chance to mend some fences, but the U.S. Marine Corps exercises reveal a deeper geopolitical reality: The United States and India will not tolerate Chinese expansion, especially into the Indian Ocean.