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U.S. documents reflect how Sri Lanka fall prey to U.S. military designs in Asia

(Courtesy of Asiantribune.com)

The projections, objectives, targets, and overall policy formulae officially declared in the U.S. Department of Defense (USDOD) June 1, 2019-released “Indo Pacific Strategy Report” clearly depicts how Sri Lanka has fallen prey to America’s military maneuvers as a coerced recruited ‘partner’ to confront the Chinese expansion in the Asian region which led to being pressured to enter into a ‘questionable’ military agreement – Acquisition and Cross-Services Agreement (ACSA) – the August 2017-renewed (and expanded) 83-page document, and exerting pressure to agree to Washington’s terms to a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which could provide diplomatic cover to American military personnel if and when they are on Sri Lanka soil. The June 1 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report is based on the foundation of the December 2017 compiled National Security Strategy which explicitly disclosed the importance of America’s military dominance in the Indo-Pacific region.

The sole intentions of the defense-policy-layout of two USG documents that cover the entire Asian region were to enhance U.S. national security and ensure the safety of the American homeland. As projected, Washington envisages strengthening the ties with its traditional allies, and target to bring in Sri Lanka – along with Maldives and Nepal – as partners to fulfill its military objectives.

The U.S. Congress in December 2018, in collaboration with the Trump White House, enacted the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act which was signed into law by President Trump on December 31 providing legal cover to Washington’s military designs/maneuvers in the Indo-Pacific region.

The following pronouncement in the June1, 2019 i>Indo-Pacific Strategy Report indicates how a small but strategically located nation like Sri Lanka – engaging in ‘tricky’ agreements such as ACSA and SOFA – could be in deep trouble if and when the U.S. engages in a confrontation in the Indo-Pacific region.

(Quote) BURDEN SHARING: the National Security Strategy calls on the United States to pursue cooperation and reciprocity together with our allies, partners, and aspiring partners. Cooperation means sharing responsibilities and burdens. The United States expects our allies and partners to shoulder a fair share of the burden of responsibility to protect against common threats. When we pool resources and share responsibility for our common defense, our security burden becomes lighter and more cost-effective. (End Quote)

As this document discloses that Sri Lanka (and Nepal) have been recently (2019) added as partners to the U.S. Indo-Pacific military endeavor, defines ‘cooperation’ as “sharing responsibilities and burdens”, and the U.S. “expects our allies and partners to shoulder a fair share of burdens.” While inducing Sri Lanka as a partner in America’s military build-up, the document declares that the partners “shoulder a fair share of the burden of responsibility to protect against common threats.” The question is: What threats does Sri Lanka face in the Indo-Pacific region? Could Sri Lanka be drawn into any confrontation the United States faces in the region? The ACSA and SOFA could drag Sri Lanka to such a confrontation that the U.S. may engage in the region, and the only adversary one could see is the Peoples Republic of China. China is America’s trade-military-economic-political adversary, and not Sri Lanka’s.

The document notes the time period the military engagement between the U.S. and Sri Lanka started: (Quote) SRI LANKA: Since 2015, DoD has strengthened its relationship with Sri Lanka and increased military engagements significantly, particularly with the Sri Lankan Navy. In 2017, we conducted the first port visit in 30 years by a U.S. aircraft carrier – the USS NIMITZ Carrier Strike Group – and the first ever bilateral Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Exercise. In 2019, we increased cooperation on mutual logistics arrangements in support of Indian Ocean security and disaster response. (End Quote)
2015 is the year the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe administration took office.

The June 1 Indo Pacific Strategy Report further states: (Quote) Sri Lanka, whose strategic location in the Indian Ocean through which 70 percent of maritime traffic passes, has outlined a vision to become a regional hub for logistics and commerce. (End Quote)

Does this mean that Sri Lanka is a ‘willing partner’?

The Asian Tribune in a previous report on the same issue of the U.S. military build-up in the Indo-Pacific region and Washington’s focus on the strategically-located Sri Lanka carried a quote from the U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz acknowledging that this Island-nation is a military hub for the U.S. military while denying that the United States has any interest in establishing a base.

Ms. Teplitz in a Tweet on July 1 reiterated that the United States has no intention of establishing a base in Sri Lanka in an attempt to dismiss reports to the contrary. However, issuing a statement on 23 January, the U.S. Embassy in Colombo said “The United States Navy is doing a cargo transfer operation at Sri Lanka’s main international airport under a plan to use the Island’s location to make it a military logistic hub.” The statement continued to say “This is part of a larger temporary cargo transfer initiative that promotes Sri Lanka’s efforts to become a regional hub for logistics and commerce.”

The Indo Pacific Strategy Report declares that Sri Lanka is in fact “a regional hub for logistics and commerce” to which Colombo’s U.S. diplomatic mission had confirmed. When the entire Island becomes a ‘military hub’ there is no need to establish a military base either in Trincomalee, Colombo or Hambantota.

Military logistics is the discipline of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of military forces. In its most comprehensive sense, it is those aspects or military operations that deal with:
• * Design, development, acquisition, storage, distribution, maintenance, evacuation, and disposition of materiel.
* Transport of personnel.
* Acquisition or construction, maintenance, operation, and disposition of facilities.
* Acquisition or furnishing of services.
* Medical and health service support.
All involve the provision of needed commodities or assistance to enable armed forces to live, move, communicate, and even fight if necessary.

The ACSA – the broadened, and still undisclosed, 83-page agreement signed in August 2017 in contrast to the disclosed 8-page agreement signed in March 2007 – and the controversial SOFA undoubtedly fulfils Washington’s desire to transform Sri Lanka into a regional US military hub, a devise well outlined in the official documents of the U.S. Department of Defense. This is worse than establishing a military base. According to the declared position of the United States spelled out in the official documents – cited in this Asian Tribune report – which has led to the ACSA and SOFA agreements, Sri Lanka is obviously ‘a willing partner’ of Washington’s military adventurism in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Asian Tribune does not know which term to use: Willing partner or coerced partner.

The 2018 National Defense Strategy of the US Department of Defense was very clear the manner in which the U.S. military make use of the ‘partners’: (Quote) “The National Defense Strategy directs the Department to posture ready, combat-credible forces forward – alongside allies and partners – and, if necessary, to fight and win”. (End Quote)

The above account and the military policy-formulations detailed below need to be noted well when discussing how Sri Lanka was/is forcibly dragged into Washington’s military build-up in the Indo-Pacific region: In fact how Sri Lanka has fallen prey to US defense-policy machinations.

The United States National Security Strategy, which was released in December 2017, states:

(Quote) (A) “A geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order is taking place in the Indo-Pacific region. The region, which stretches from the west coast of India to the western shores of the United States, represents the most populous and economically dynamic part of the world. The United States interest in a free and open Indo-Pacific extends back to the earliest days of our republic.”; and

(B) “Our vision for the Indo-Pacific excludes no nation. We will redouble our commitment to established alliances and partnerships, while expanding and deepening relationships with new partners that share respect for sovereignty, fair and reciprocal trade, and the rule of law. We will reinforce our commitment to freedom of the seas and the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes in accordance with international law”. (End Quote)

The 2018 National Defense Strategy guides the Department of Defense to support the National Security Strategy in order to:
1. Defend the homeland;
2. Remain the preeminent military power in the world;
3. Ensure the balances of power in key regions remain in our favor; and
4. Advance an international order that is most conducive to our security and prosperity.

Washington declares: (Quote) Both the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy affirm the Indo-Pacific as critical for America’s continued stability, security, and prosperity.

The National Defense Strategy informs how we work with our neighbors in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, to address key challenges in the region. The core diagnosis of the National Defense Strategy is that DoD’s military advantage vis-à-vis China and Russia is eroding and, if inadequately addressed, it will undermine our ability to deter aggression and coercion.
To address this challenge, DoD is developing a more lethal, resilient, and rapidly innovating Joint Force, and is increasing collaboration with a robust constellation of allies and partners.

The challenges we face in the Indo-Pacific extend beyond what any single country can address alone. The Department seeks to cooperate with like-minded allies and partners to address common challenges, The 2018 National Defense Strategy compiled by the U.S. Department of Defense declares. (End Quote)

The most recent June 1, 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy, which is sub-titled, Preparedness, Partnerships, and Promoting a Networked Region, another report compiled by the Defense Department, outlines why Washington is serious about its military expansion/build-up in the Indo-Pacific region. The report has not escaped mentioning Sri Lanka. China was the main target.
The report lays out Washington’s justification for its enhanced presence:

(Quote) The People’s Republic of China’s Military Modernization and Coercive Actions
As China continues its economic and military ascendance, it seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and, ultimately global preeminence in the long-term. China is investing in a broad range of military programs and weapons, including those designed to improve power projection; modernize its nuclear forces; and conduct increasingly complex operations in domains such as cyberspace, space, and electronic warfare operations. China is also developing a wide array of anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities, which could be used to prevent countries from operating in areas near China’s periphery, including the maritime and air domains that are open to use by all countries.

China’s Use of Economic Means to Advance Its Strategic Interests
China is using economic inducements and penalties, influence operations, and implied military threats to persuade other states to comply with its agenda.

A Chinese state-owned enterprise purchased operational control of Hambantota Port for 99 years, taking advantage of Sri Lanka’s need for cash when its government faced daunting external debt repayment obligations.

The United States, however, has serious concerns with China’s potential to convert unsustainable debt burdens of recipient countries or sub-national groups into strategic and military access, including by taking possession of sovereign assets as collateral. (End Quote)

Defense posture is a visible manifestation of U.S. national interests and priorities in the Indo-Pacific region, and makes up the network of U.S. forces and capabilities that are forward-deployed in the region (in this case Indo-Pacific), as well as the interconnected bases, infrastructure, installations, and international agreements – such as ACSA and SOFA – that support both day to-day and wartime employment of the force.

This then is the objective of Washington, and the above scrutiny of the United States Government official reports clearly manifest the manner in which it strengthen ties with already existing allies, and how countries such as Sri Lanka are rounded up – as partners –willingly or coerced, to fall in line with its grand politico-military design.

By Daya Gamage – Asian Tribune Political-Military Analysis

 

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