by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor Victoria Nuland, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States, has made a second visit to Sri Lanka within a few months. PriorMore
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps began exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Sri Lanka 2023 with the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) and Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) in Colombo, Jan. 19, 2023.
CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is a joint, bilateral maritime exercise taking place ashore in Colombo and at the SLN bases in Trincomalee and Mullikullam. The sea phase will take place in the Laccadive Sea. This year’s exercise includes participants from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Maldives National Defence Force, and coincides with the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations and partnership between the United States and Sri Lanka.
The exercise commenced with an opening ceremony led by Deputy Chief of Staff / Director General Operations of SLN Rear Adm. Pradeep Rathnayake, and Capt. Sean Lewis, deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7.
“CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is designed to exchange ideas as well as tactics,” said Lewis. “We will practice interoperability and strengthen our interpersonal relationships — both at sea and in port.”
Sri Lanka Navy offshore patrol vessels SLNS Gajabahu (P 626) and SLNS Vijayabahu (P 627) will meet the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), with embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), at sea. Training will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as air defense, small boat operations, and replenishment-at-sea approaches.
“I believe each event perfectly reflects the excellent collaboration between our forces and emphasizes our partnership in promoting regional security, combining knowledge, skill and understanding of goals, cultures and ideals,” said Rathnayake.
The shore phase trainings will consist of classroom subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE), practical education, and a Women, Peace and Security roundtable hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung. Highlights will include a series of public performances and exchanges between both country’s navy bands, a sports day, and a series of community service activities, as well as SMEEs on issues like diving and underwater construction, medical support, and maritime domain awareness.
“For seventy-five years, Sri Lanka and the United States have worked together to preserve an international community in which diverse sovereign states can unite to work with each other while maintaining their own respective identities,” said Rear Adm. Derek Trinque, commander, Task Force (CTF) 76/3. “CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka will help us move in unison toward achieving our shared goals of safety and prosperity.”
Additional participating U.S. assets include a P-8A Poseidon and personnel from U.S. 7th Fleet, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, CTF 73, CTF 76/3, DESRON 7, and Amphibious Squadron 7.
CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is a bilateral exercise between Sri Lanka and the United States designed to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance maritime interoperability.
In its 28th year, the CARAT series is comprised of multinational exercises, designed to enhance U.S. and partner navies’ abilities to operate together in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with Allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
State Minister Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon could have disclosed a decisive decision taken by the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to reduce the approved cadre of Sri Lanka Army (SLA) at the launch of ‘STORY OF THE WORLD: Geopolitical Alliances and Rivalries Set in Stone’ authored by Col. Nalin Herath, at Rock House Army camp (Regimental Headquarters of the Armoured Corps), on January 12.
State Minister Tennakoon was the Chief Guest at the event, attended by Defence Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Shavendra Silva, both of the Gajaba Regiment, and several other senior serving, and retired officers.
The author, as an armoured corps officer, has served the 681 Brigade of the 53 Division. He has been the Brigade Major. The 681 Brigade, assigned to the 53 Division, commanded by the then Maj. Gen. Gunaratne, has been credited with the killing of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, on the morning of May 19, 2009.
The first such book, launched by a serving officer, would have been the ideal setting for the official declaration on the reduction of SLA’s approved cadre.
A press release, pertaining to the proposed reduction of the approved cadre of the SLA, was released by Col. Nalin Herath, on the following day (January 13). Interestingly, the statement was attributed to State Defence Minister Tennakoon, who received the elevated position, on Sept. 08, 2022. The Matale District MP was among 37 government parliamentary group members appointed as State Ministers, as per the understanding between President Wickremesinghe and his principal sponsor, the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Pramitha Bandara is the son of Janaka Banadara Tennakoon, MP, one of the SLFP seniors who had even served the party during the tenure of the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike as the SLFP leader. Incidentally Pramitha’s paternal grandfather, Tikiri Banda Tennakoon, was a founder member of the SLFP, along with its creator, SWRD Bandaranaike. T.B., having swept into Parliament, in 1956, like so many other first timers, with an essentially Sinhala ethos, he continuously retained his Dambulla electorate for five consecutive terms, thanks to his dedication to serve his people.
Perhaps, that high profile decision to trim the armed forces, that were deliberately expanded in the last phase of the then long-running war, from 2006, should have been announced by President Wickremesinghe, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and the Defence Minister, as well. The government owed an explanation whether the Cabinet-of-Ministers approved the far reaching move and when that decision was taken.
Following the perusal of statements, issued in Sinhala and English, there couldn’t be ambiguity regarding what really prompted the decision. Lawmaker Pramitha Tennakoon declared that the decision to reduce the current approved SLA cadre of 200,783 to 135,000, by end of next year, and further reduce that figure to 100,000, by 2030, has been taken after taking into consideration the current state of affairs. Obviously, the State Defence Minister was referring to Sri Lanka’s bankrupt status.
President Wickremesinghe’s decision to review the approved cadre of the SLA should be appreciated, as it was a long felt necessity, as maintaining an army of more than 200.000, under current circumstances, is no small burden for a country of the size of Sri Lanka, especially as it no longer faced any formidable enemy, militarily from within. This assertion shouldn’t be misconstrued as our wholehearted backing for the government decision. Let us hope some sections in the Opposition do not seek political advantage, thereby causing unnecessary friction amidst the continuing economic-political-social turmoil.
President Wickremesinghe indicated his desire to bring down the SLA’s strength, on Nov. 14, 2022. when he presented the 2023 Budget. Wickremesinghe proposed to allow armed forces personnel, other than special categories, to retire after 18 years of service. Wickremesinghe assured that tangible measures would be taken to provide them training, required to engage in productive economic activities.
On behalf of the government, State Minister Tennakoon asserted that a 100,000 strength as the right size for the SLA.
Change of SLA command
Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Vikum Liyanage, in his New Year message to his officers, and men, revealed the intended decrease in SLA’s approved cadre. Gajaba Regiment veteran Liyanage, who succeeded Gen. Shavendra Silva, on July 01, 2022, declared that preliminary measures had been taken in this regard. Army headquarters, in a statement issued on January 02, quoted Lt. Gen. Liyanage has having said the process was meant to streamline the organizational structure, operational deployment and concept of operations. The Army Chief emphasized the responsibility on the part of the SLA to be prepared to face any eventuality this year. Lt. Gen. Liyanage didn’t mince his words when he declared the need to keep their plans on track, regardless of the current crisis, which he described as a turbulent period.
If not for the massive public protest campaign that turned violent, after Temple Trees unleashed SLPP goons on the Galle Face ‘Go Gota Home’ protesters on May 09, morning, Liyanage probably wouldn’t have received an opportunity to command the war-winning SLA. The then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, himself a Gajaba founder veteran, brought in Liyanage to succeed celebrated ground combat commander Gen. Shavendra Silva. Liyanage received the appointment on June 01. Protesters overran President Rajapaksa’s official residence, in Fort, six weeks later. Wickremesinghe, having been picked as President, by a majority vote in Parliament, has chosen Liyanage to oversee the transformation by granting him a one-year extension.
Otherwise, Liyanage would have retired on Dec. 31, 2022. He received a one-year extension, amidst intense controversy over his successor.
Over a dozen officers would retire by Dec. 31, 2023.
Gen. Shavendra Silva continues to serve as the CDS, a position he held earlier in an Acting Capacity beginning January 01, 2020, while also being the then Army Commander. The celebrated General Officer, Commanding (GoC) the 58 Division (previously Task Force 1) received the SLA command, on August 19, 2019, during the tail end of Maithripala Sirisena’s presidency. Unfortunately, many top officers, who contributed much to that most unlikely victory, over terrorism, were overlooked during the Yahapalana regime that came to power in 2015, thanks to the political betrayal by Maithripala Sirisena.
Proposed gradual but significant reduction of approved SLA cadre, by half, within the next seven years, should be examined, taking into consideration two domestic factors, namely (1) Ranil Wickremesinghe’s election as President to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term, and (2) the worst ever post-independence economic crisis that has compelled utterly disorganized and reckless political party system ways and means to cut down both capital and recurrent expenditure.
Cash-strapped Sri Lanka can save a considerable amount of public funds by halving the SLA size. Retired Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera, Director of Operations, during the crucial period of the Eelam War (2006-2009) asserted: “It is not the numbers that matter, but the deterrence….” The one-time Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Malaysia, emphasized the responsibility, on the part of the decision-makers, to adopt, what he called, a pragmatic approach.
Contrary to numerous warnings, regarding the possibility of the LTTE launching a hit-and run-campaign, after the combined security forces decimated its conventional fighting capacity, by February-May 2009, the group was no longer in its previous suicide mode, due to the overbearing presence of the SLA. There had been one attempt to regroup and that was mercilessly and swiftly dealt with. Since then, ex-members of the group remained peaceful, though some expressed fears those who had been released after rehabilitation could take up arms again. Wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, having played a pivotal role in the eradication of terrorism. by May 2009, allowed the release of as many as 12,000 ex-LTTE cadres and the gradual decrease of the SLA presence, in the Jaffna peninsula. Accordingly, the SLA gave up both state and private land in the Jaffna peninsula, and other parts of the Vanni and the East, held over the years, to fight the war, to facilitate the return of civilians, in peace time.
Rapid SLA expansion
At the time Eelam War IV erupted, in the second week of August, 2006, with coordinated attacks in the East and across the Muhamalai front line, extending from Kilali, across Eluththumaduwal to Nagarkovil on the Vadamarachchy east coast,
The SLA had approximately 60 regular and volunteer infantry battalions. It, however, lacked the wherewithal to simultaneously conduct offensive operations, defend areas under control and deploy troops to hold newly recaptured areas.
The then President Mahinda Rajapaksa took an unprecedented political decision to rapidly expand the SLA to finish off the LTTE, once and for all. The then Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka got what he asked for. Fonseka never hesitated to push the political leadership on the urgent need to expand the SLA. The Army Chief had the backing of the Defence Secretary and the whole process was expedited, overnight.
A recruitment drive got underway, in the last quarter of 2006, as the SLA, at a great cost, thwarted the LTTE offensive on the Northern front, stabilized the situation there, and went on the offensive. A relentless SLA campaign brought the entire Eastern Province, under government control, with the recapture of the last Tiger stronghold, at Toppigala, in July 2007. As the name denotes, it was a rock outcrop, with a clear viewing advantage of the surroundings. But, that wouldn’t have been possible without operations, conducted by the Navy and the Air Force, both in support of ground forces, as well as to weaken the overall conventional capacity of the enemy. But, ironically, that fact was lost on our warwinning military genius, Sarath Fonseka, and, no doubt, a man with a sixth sense, but who ironically felt that all war trophies should go to the Army and him.
We will cite just one example as to why we say he had a sixth sense that helped to win the war. For a long time, we had heard from lower ranking officers that they were often reluctant to call in artillery support as often they themselves got whacked by such ‘friendly’ fire. But after the all-out war broke out, in 2006, and the Army was advancing on several fronts, we suddenly found that Fonseka had taken a rather unusual step of putting a stop to the discretionary power of our artillery and he had placed Special Forces operatives with all field artillery units and they couldn’t fire their big guns till those minders, clearly wearing T-shirts, emblazoned ‘Special Forces’, double checked their ranges. And, miraculously, that ended many a friendly artillery killing our own soldiers. This was something all previous commanders failed to do.
As many as 120,000 men were mobilized as the the SLA raised almost 100 infantry battalions. It would be pertinent to mention that new recruits were required for new fighting formations and also to replenish depleted battalions. The high intensity Vanni battles took a heavy toll on fighting formations. The incumbent Army Commander had served as the Commanding Officer of the 8th battalion of the Gajaba Regiment (Jan. 1, 2006 to June 06, 2006) attached to 56 and 57 Divisions during the Vanni campaign. The 56 Division played a defensive role whereas 57 Division played a critically important offensive role, though it ceased offensive operations, after capturing Kurivilkulam, in the second week of Feb. 2009.
The rapid recruitment, training and deployment of fresh recruits swamped the Vanni with infantry formations. During the last phase of the war, the SLA troop strength doubled, thereby allowing successive commanders after Fonseka, who relinquished command in mid-July 2009, amidst controversy of his decision to enter active politics. Fonseka contested the 2010 January presidential election but suffered a humiliating defeat in the hands of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Having made an abortive bid to spearhead a party of his own, the war hero, who holds the rank of Field Marshal, has now ended up as an MP, representing the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB).
Since the end of the war, there has been a gradual decrease in the security forces’ strength, though the approved cadre remained unchanged.
In spite of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration Sri Lanka’s commitment to friendly ties with all countries, at regional and global level, his government is ensnared in a deadly US-China conflict against the backdrop of an equally lethal debt trap.
Having declared bankruptcy, in April last year, Sri Lanka is struggling to reach consensus with China and India, two major bilateral creditors whose backing is nothing but a pre-requisite for the finalization of the IMF USD 2.9 bn credit facility, spread over a period of four years. No less a person than President Wickremesinghe, during an informal chat with a group of journalists, representing Upali Newspapers Ltd., on January 06, acknowledged the difficult situation his government is in.
There is still no clear indication when China and India will reach final consensus on this matter, although Sri Lanka and the IMF reached a staff-level agreement, relating to it, on Sept. 01, 2022.
The response of some sections of the international community, to the developing economic crisis here, cannot be discussed without taking into consideration their alignment with the US-led grouping meant to counter, what they perceive, as a growing Chinese threat.
Once Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, declared that Sri Lanka faced a major security threat as long as the Hambantota Port remained in Chinese hands. The warning was given in the wake of the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage that claimed the lives of 269 men, women and children, including about 40 foreigners, and wounded about double that number. The then UNP lawmaker Wijeyedasa Rajapakse proposed the intervention of Parliament to take back the Hambantota Port, given to China, on a 99-year lease. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Premier of the Yahapalana government that finalized the Hambantota Port deal, in 2017, is the President now.
Sri Lanka needs to carefully review the situation. Sri Lanka cannot afford to ignore geopolitical interests of individual countries, as well as various groupings, in addition to the Tamil Diaspora factor. The ‘Quad’ (Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral Dialogue) comprising the US, Australia, Japan and India. The grouping wants Sri Lanka, within its orbit, whereas China pursues its own strategy.
There cannot be any other reason than the Tamil Diaspora vote for Canada to recognize Tamil genocide, in May last year, and then imposed sanctions against former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa recently.
Canada’s treatment of indigenous people has exposed their human rights façade, while Ottawa pursue Sri Lanka over unsubstantiated war crimes allegations.
Unfortunately, successive Sri Lankan governments, including the incumbent Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa administration, continues to fail the war-winning military.
Sanctions imposed on the Rajapaksa brothers must be examined, keeping in mind Sri Lanka’s pathetic failure to use Lord Naseby’s disclosure, in the House of Lords, in Oct. 2017. to clear the military. Following a lengthy legal battle, Lord Naseby forced the UK to release a section of highly censored confidential wartime dispatches (January 01, 2009- May 2009) from its High Commission in Colombo.
In conversations with this writer, in Colombo, last year, Lord Naseby expressed disappointment over Sri Lanka’s continuous failure to use available evidence, coupled with a very supportive assessment made by wartime US Defence Advisor Colonel Lawrence Smith, in Colombo, over two years, after the war ended, at the inaugural defence seminar, in Colombo. Sri Lanka simply ignored the US Colonel’s declaration that must have been made quite confidently in the presence of senior military representatives of about 40 countries.
Sri Lanka never recognized the growing threat until the US imposed a travel ban on Gen. Shavendra Silva, on Feb. 13, 2020. That was five years after Australia refused a visa to Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage, also over unsubstantiated war crimes allegations.
Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, too, has been denied a US visa after Washington quite conveniently forgot backing Fonseka at the 2010 presidential poll and the war-winning Army Chief receiving the backing of the Tamil National Alliance that ensured the General sweeping predominately Tamil speaking districts in the Northern and Eastern Province, at the 2010 presidential poll. But, Canadian sanctions on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP, are the first on a politician, whereas Gotabaya Rajapaksa was targeted over his role as the wartime Defence Secretary.
Parliament needs to ascertain the situation seriously, and take appropriate measures, at least now, to have accountability issues examined properly to pave the way for restoring public faith in the political party system.
Parliament, entrusted with financial responsibility, has achieved what the LTTE, one of the groups established by India, in the ’80s, to terrorize Sri Lanka, failed to do.
Parliament has overseen the ruination of the war-winning country. The declaration of bankruptcy is nothing but an indictment of successive governments. The debt servicing crisis should be studied, keeping in mind Sri Lanka obtained IMF’s bailout packages on 16 previous occasions. The next one depends on the response of Sri Lanka’s creditors, China and India.
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps will commence exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Sri Lanka 2023 with the Sri Lanka Navy and Sri Lanka Air Force in Colombo, Jan. 19 – 26, 2023.
CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is a bilateral exercise between Sri Lanka and the United States designed to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance maritime interoperability. This is the fifth CARAT/ MAREX exercise between the United States and Sri Lanka, and this year includes participants from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Maldives National Defence Force. Training exchanges will occur in Colombo and on the Sri Lanka Navy bases in Trincomalee and Mullikullam.
“The United States, in our 75th year of bilateral relations with Sri Lanka, is proud to partner with the Sri Lanka Navy and the Sri Lanka Air Force for this training. These yearly exercises are an important opportunity for training to prepare for disaster relief and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific. We are grateful for the invitation to host the exercise together,” said U.S. Ambassador Julie Chung regarding the upcoming exercise.
The week-long exercise is designed to enhance U.S. and partner navies’ abilities to operate together in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and build relationships through sports, cultural, and information exchanges. In addition to training for humanitarian disaster relief and lifesaving training, U.S. and Sri Lankan servicemembers will participate in a Women, Peace and Security roundtable with the Ambassador Chung. During the exercise, the 7th Fleet Navy band, in partnership with the Sri Lankan Navy band, will give a series of free performances in Colombo.
Statement issued by the US Embassy in Colombo
General Manoj Pande, Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army in his customary media briefing ahead of the 75th Army Day outlined the significant challenge faced by the world’s second largest army that of assessing the enemy intent on the other side of the hill.
Thus, referring to the Northern borders with China, the Army Chief General Pande said, “In the northern borders the situation is stable and under control yet unpredictable. You are aware of the ongoing talks (both at military as well as diplomatic levels) wherein we’ve been able to resolve five out of seven issues that were there on the table.”
Clearly this was an admission of the military being blind on the intelligence front which is a failing that is not new to the Indian armed forces and is frequently made up by the blood and toil of soldiers on the ground and junior officers who demonstrate commitment and vigour to notch up many operational successes.
The saga of the Indian Army’s intelligence failures is long starting with the Pakistan Army supported raiders surreptitiously entering Kashmir in 1947 reaching the gates of Srinagar near Badgam when these were beaten back towards Muzaffarabad.
The momentous failure of 1962 War against China is shrouded in the mystery of the Henderson Brooks Report which has never been officially released yet excerpts from the same have been quoted from time to time.
In 1971, the success of Liberation War in Bangladesh may have been different had General later Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw not insisted on launching operations at a time of his choosing despite significant pressures from then Prime Minister Ms Indira Gandhi.
Thereafter from Kargil in 1999 to the large scale terrorist attacks in Uri and Pulwama military intelligence failures have continued which have been made up by unleashing operational capability be it Operation Vijay in 1999 to so called, “surgical strikes,” in 2016.
The story has been familiar in recent years with the Army failing to anticipate China’s intrusions across selected points on the Line of Actual Control. But for the saga of the Galwan incident of 15 June 2020 when skirmishing Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) clashed with casualties to both sides, these intrusions may not have gathered national attention.
However, by establishing a post on the high Kailash Range in the summer of 2020, the military partially made up for the losses. The Yangtse incident on December 09 this year is an indicator that lessons are being learnt fast and the military is now anticipating possible actions by the PLA.
Yet the surge of attacks in Rajauri sector in Jammu and Kashmir in January 2023 brings to light concerns that the rise in awareness of adversary intention remains a question mark. The killing of four soldiers in August 2022 should have been warning enough of infiltration of groups in this sector but the military perhaps believed that the counter infiltration grid was impermeable.
The Statement by the Army Chief that the situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was “uncertain,” is another marker of the intelligence dilemma faced by the Army.
By making huge investments in drones and UAVs as reports indicate apart from other resources the Indian Army Forces hope to make up for the deficit.
However, this is not likely to lead to removal of, “uncertainty,” vis a vis China or Pakistan.
Understanding the Long Game
Developing intelligence of enemy, “Intent,” is a complex process the principal feature of
which is understanding the Long Game of the adversary.
China’s aggressive proclamations of regaining territorial sovereignty was evidently ignored at the national as well as military level, with belief in diplomacy at the high table.
While China has abandoned the agreements for peace and tranquility on the LAC made during a period when there was obviously a need felt in Beijing for keeping the ghosts of the past under cover, the present regime under President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission Xi Jinping is no longer shackled by constraints of the past and is unwilling to, “bide the time and never take the initiative,” sayings of the Deng era.
Galwan is thus a symptom of the disease of a blinkers down approach, and here the Army alone cannot be faulted.
But where the blame directly rests on the military is in discontinuing vigil on the LAC which was the express charge of the Army and prevent intrusions regardless of ongoing diplomacy.
Why the commanders in the field were complacent will never be clear, yet the Army seems to have learnt the lessons well if Yangtse is any example.
Understanding China and Pakistan’s Long Game is therefore important, what that is will be a
subject of another discussion.
Character of Wars and Insurgencies Transforms
Yet another indicator of knowing the Intent of the enemy is to track the way he will fight in the light of his Long Game.
It is an oft known maxim that while nature of war is constant the character of wars and insurgencies changes based on application of violence by an adversary.
The next war will be different from the previous one and an agile aggressor as Pakistan will continue to strive to change the pattern of terrorism in J & K catching the security forces off guard.
For crystal gazing, investing in mastering the many techniques of futures assumes importance.
The almighty and his holly son equally condemned the false prophets and teachers; no matter what they dressed. Liars are the bane of humanity and the doom of liars is spoken of in Revelation of Holly Bible. “As the messengers of God taught us, the liar will forever be separated from a loving and holy God. The liar will have all eternity to regret the deception they refused to renounce as they hear their lies echo in their memory.”
One liar who deceives himself as well as others suddenly came before the media and expressed his hypocritical hatred. What an ugly show. This is what we called; the Rip Van Winkle moment of any personality. He was fast asleep, and just before getting up he was sleepwalking; now he’s as awake as Rip Van Winkle.
After a period of silence, Father Cyril Gamini, a media spokesman of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called a press conference in Colombo yesterday and once again expressed his views on the Easter terrorist attacks. On what authority Father Gamini can criticise the appointments of the senior officers climbed based on merits and seniority? Does he know that the basic legal ideology, the presumption of innocence, every person should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty due process of law?
Before and during the Galleface Aragalaya, many self-proclaimed civil society activists made a big fuss in the country about the Easter attack, but after the Aragalaya, their focus shifted. Consequently, many of them were pushed into a hideous silence. Simultaneously, the sources of income of those “revolutionaries” have also changed. According to reliable sources; some have received asylum in foreign countries and others have applied for it.
There were widespread allegations of a conspiracy behind the attack, but no one has any data to prove it is true. Their response is clear; I say because the other person said so. However, one good thing is that those who blame the attack was the result of a political conspiracy formulated by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa are now struggling to continue their blabbering to mislead society. With the rapid development of information technology, Goebbels’ theory that a lie becomes a truth just by telling it again and again has changed. But Father Cyril Gamini is reluctant to come out of the Goebbelsian cage.
Ensnared in such a confused social context, the new despicable attempt of the group of conspiracy theorists including Father Cyril Gamini is to attack the characters of the government officials they are targeting. At the press conference held yesterday, he proved his new vice. Father Gamini could be observed in the media yesterday to be so low as to express his views in a very obnoxious manner targeting government officials while the conspiracy theory he articulated and kept on repeating in last few years, unfortunately, has exhausted without substance.
A few days ago, in the official propaganda magazine released by Islamic State, a detailed narration of the 2019 Easter attack was published. The publication has vividly cleared in detail that there is no political conspiracy behind this attack, but a group of fanatics motivated by Islamic State ideology. This has dealt a serious blow to conspiracy theorists. In fact, Father Cyril Gamini should answer that, instead of proving his ugliness in front of society by personally attacking the officials who have proven with data that they fulfilled their responsibility to the best of their ability.
2023 is the Year of the Rabbit which is seen as the gentlest animal in the Chinese Zodiac. This comes after the Year of the Tiger – fast and furious. But the Rabbit is good at adapting and can move rapidly cutting through multiple furrows of uncertainty. A Rabbit can also protect itself and indicates strong confidence and strength with resoluteness towards goals despite the obstacles.
Applied to the India China dyad despite operating on different zodiac systems 2023 denotes to be a year of continued competition cum confrontation. The confrontation of the military kind is easy to guess which may occur on the Northern borders as the Yangtze clash on December 09 indicates. Competition could be in many spheres geographic and topical.
In 2022, China was engaged in internal political consolidation for President and General Secretary Xi Jinping.
Now that the same is out of the way after the 20th Congress has established primacy of the Xi regime so to say, the pathway to regional and global domination will be resumed rapidly and at a faster pace than before.
From the Indian perspective Chinese presence in South Asia – New Delhi’s regional sphere of influence – Neighbourhood First assumes significance for that would be an area of contestation not just competition.
Yet China seems to have started at an advantage in the beginning of the New Year 2023 with a communist left party led coalition assuming power in Nepal, Pakistan continuing to be the favourable “ally,” regionally and umpteen opportunities in other states through political, diplomatic and economic influence.
Most importantly several countries in South Asia will face parliamentary or presidential elections. From the military regime ruled Myanmar to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Maldives polls are to be held this year which may provide Beijing an opportunity to swing the tide in its favour using tools fair and foul.
With success in Nepal under the belt the Chinese could perceive a higher level of confidence and advantage. That the Chinese political, diplomatic and development machinery is nimble is evident with a few projects declared for Nepal days after the CPN Maoist Centre Leader Prachanda or Pushpa Kamal Dahal was sworn in as the Prime Minister.
The aim is to give a fillip to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects which have been lying fallow for some time. An attempt could also be made to open up trade and transit including energy routes to the North with China through Tibet despite the harsh terrain and logistics challenges faced.
Afghanistan may be a challenge for China given despite almost 16 months of defacto authority of the Taliban in power in Kabul there has been a breakthrough in only one mining and energy project with China’s CAPEIC (Xinjiang Central Asia Oil and Gas Company) in the Amu Darya Basin in the North on January 05.
The highly ambitious extension of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and linking with the Belt and Road Initiative will remain poor for now.
Extra regional influence is also expected to grow as the first container ship of Chinese goods landed in the joint India Iran Chabahar port on December 31.
The port is operated by India Ports Global and has seen greater maritime traffic than neighouring Gwadar in Pakistan which despite being a CPEC project has not seen many ships unloading. Apart from lack of hinterland, there are law and order and terror challenges in this zone whereas Chabahar is secure.
How an increase in Chinese traffic at the port will be handled by India in conjunction with Iran remains to be seen?
To sum up China may have a comprehensive advantage over India in Pakistan, while the influence in countries as Afghanistan, Nepal and Myanmar may be overwhelmingly wider.
On the other hand a tough contest for influence can be envisaged in Bangladesh Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Having understood the Chinese game to some extent India may be better prepared to meet these challenges, yet there are hurdles that can be envisaged apart from constraint of resources in comparative terms to the focus on managing the Chinese military expansion on the Northern borders as well as the maritime sphere.
This may tie down the Indian leadership which will also be working towards general elections in the country which will be held in the first half of 2024.
Indeed, Beijing’s calculations may have factored in this important event and how it would shape the same is a subject for another day.
Yet there could be one critical uncertainty internally for China – the spread of COVID 19 – while numbers are unclear for now – the impact is likely to wear down the Party as well as the State authorities in Beijing.
The Voice of Khorasan, a magazine by the media outlet for the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), recently published a brief bio of and a statement by Shaykh Shaheed Abu Ubaitha, the alleged mastermind of the 2019 attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The profile was titled “Shaykh Abu Ubaitha: the Amir of the Istishadi Knights Who Wreaked Havoc on the Crusaders in Srilanka (sic.)”. The attacks occurred on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019: official figures state that these resulted in the deaths of 269 people, plus the eight suicide bombers involved.
The article claims that Ubaitha was born and raised in Kattankudy (Kaathankudi), a township on Sri Lanka’s east coast. It includes few personal details on him, stating “he had immense love for jihad and zeal for the Ummah (Islamic community) from his childhood, as he bore enmity towards the kuffar (infidels) and mushrikin (polytheists)”. It also claims that sometime prior to the attack, Ubaitha and 800 other individuals pledged their allegiance to former Islamic State (IS) Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
It states that Ubaitha’s 2019 attacks killed “650 Christians and mushrikin and 22 Mujihideen (who were) martyred”. It also claims that the attackers left a message to the world in “their own blood”, that states “Allah willing, the Khilifah will be raised through our blood that has flown from our bodies and fallen on this earth”.
Ubaitha is quoted directly in reference to the attacks. “If you ask us why we did these attacks, there is a village named Baghuz in Sham (Syria). This land was governed by the law of Allah only. Over 80 crusader countries destroyed this area and its people. They showered white phosphorus bombs, which has (sic.) been banned by the crusader countries [themselves]…”. “After killing our people, making our children orphans, making our sisters widows, and after killing the mujahedeen they (the ‘crusaders’) come here for tourism and holidays. So we have embarked on a noble cause… to kill them by sacrificing our lives!” In his lengthy statement, Ubaitha also addresses future potential targets, stating “Do not think you can negotiate. There will be explosions here and there. This is [just] the beginning!” The statement also mentions the March 2019 Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand as justification for attacks on Churches in Colombo.
Other than the brief bio and photos provided in this recent publication, practically nothing is known of Shaykh Shaheed Abu Ubaitha. One of the known attackers named Mohammad Cassim Mohammad Zahran (aka Zahra Hashmi) came from Ubaitha’s reported hometown of Kattankudy. A suspected ringleader in the attacks, he was killed in a suicide explosion at the Shangri-la hotel in Colombo in 2019. It is possible that Shaykh Shaheed Abu Ubaitha may have been another of Zahran’s nom de guerres.
According to Sri Lankan officials, the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo were perpetrated by the National Thoweeth Jama’ath (NTJ). Translated from Arabic as the National Monotheism Organization, the NTJ is believed to have ties to IS: it and one of its suspected splinter groups were banned by the Sri Lankan parliament on April 27, 2019, shortly after the attacks. Although now-former Sri Lankan Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene has claimed that the attacks came in response to the March 2019 Christchurch Mosque shootings, this has been disputed by some experts. If true, this latest statement from the ISKP would corroborate the Sri Lankan government’s official narrative on the matter.
Source: Militant Wire
by Our Defence Affairs Editor
Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police Nilantha Jayawardena has been appointed as the Senior DIG Administration by the Inspector General of Police Mr C. D. Wickramaratne. An alumnus of Nalanda College, Colombo, Mr Jayawardena holds an Honors Degree in Accounting and Finance from Punjab University, Chandigarh, India. Then, he earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Colombo. Additionally, he holds diplomas in conflict resolution and international relations.
As a senior police officer, Mr Jayawardena has completed the Senior Police Officers’ Command Course in Malaysia and trained in Israel and the United States on intelligence affairs as well as on counter-terrorism, de-radicalisation, and rehabilitation. He has participated in numerous conferences and courses in many foreign countries and worked at the High Commission of Sri Lanka in Canada for two years.
As a senior police officer, Mr Jayawardena served as the additional director and director of the State Intelligence Service respectively and has also served as the senior DIG of the Eastern and Central Provinces. Mr Jayawardena who is currently heading the Support Service, Covid-19 Supervision and Headquarters of Police, has married a human rights lawyer and is a father of two.
Ram Madhav, once a powerful RSS voice who counted in the government, recently remarked that Indian action at Yangtse was only defensive but India is now prepared for China, adding that only Operation Snow Leopard against China was proactive. On the 15,000 feet high Yangtse plateau, the LAC follows Yangtse Ridge, the watershed where Indian border posts are located along a stone wall. Overlooking the plateau are the Yangtse heights which command a towering 360-degree view, especially of Tawang bowl 30 km away extending to Sela Pass where a tunnel is being built. It is one among several disputed areas resulting from the patchy marking of the McMahon Line on an 8-inch map and perhaps the only disputed area in Indian possession. This riles China as it was occupied by the bold actions of local commanders in Tawang when PLA infiltrated across LAC into Wangdung/Sumdorong Chu in June 1986. Over time, Tawang developed into a fortress. It has the 341-year-old Galden Namgey Lhatse monastery, second only to Lhasa’s Potala monastery, the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist place of worship. More importantly, the 6th Dalai Lama was born in Tawang which Tibet administered till 1950.
For China, the succession of the 14th Dalai Lama is linked to the status of Tibet and its control over Tawang. During the talks starting in 2005 over finding a political settlement to the border, skipping LAC identification, three clauses turned out to be key: ‘not to disturb settled populations’; ‘political compromise’; and ‘national sentiment’. India’s claim to Tawang’s ‘settled population’ was trumped by China’s use of ‘national sentiment; and ‘political compromise’. The Chinese offer in the 1950s of a border solution was a swap: India conceded Aksai Chin while China accepted the McMahon Line. Unfortunately, this Chinese position has hardened from concessions in the west to concessions in the east, mainly in Tawang. In no way China will compromise on Tawang and will by hook or crook, even by use of force, try to retake Tawang which was under its possession for two months in 1962. China’s new border law 2022 equates territory with sovereignty and makes recovery of lost territory sacred.
The PLA’s attempt to unilaterally alter the status quo at Yangtse is not their first. They’ve done so regularly since 2016 to assert China’s claim over disputed territory. According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, supported by satellite imagery Dec 2022 of Planet Labs, Chinese infrastructure has improved significantly in one year with a road now 150 m short of LAC with new villages coming up close by. China’s infrastructure development along LAC has created an ‘escalation trap’ for India which it tries to compensate for with increased readiness and surveillance to reduce the risk of accidental escalation. On 9 December, the PLA operation started around 3 am in foggy conditions, expecting to overwhelm Indian troops who were forewarned and beat back intruders with clubs and sticks. Through these attempts, says ASPI, China is testing Indian willingness and readiness to resist while eroding the status quo.
India has gone silent on Doklam in Bhutan where in 2017, Indian troops allegedly ‘illegally crossed LAC’ into Chinese territory to prevent the construction of a road to the disputed tri-junction invoking its treaty obligations with Bhutan. Following an agreement, the Indian and Chinese disengaged after 73 days. But the Chinese feigned withdrawal and soon returned. According to Planet Lab’s, imagery obtained this month Chinese village 9 km east of Doklam at Pangda is inside Bhutan with now a bridge over Torsa Nullah. This will create a new red-line situation for India with Indian troops at Dokla just meters away from PLA at Doklam. India has allowed the Doklam front to reopen as Bhutanese would any day settle their differences with China but for India’s security concerns in Chumbi valley.
It is increasingly clear China will neither clarify LAC nor settle the border question. It will repeat its 2020 tricks in East Ladakh in other areas as its infrastructure expands further. After withdrawal from Hot Springs in September, China said it would not accept the status quo of 2020 created by India’s ‘illegal crossing of LAC.’ This fiction China has used after every clash with Indian troops in shifting the onus of blame to India. High time India paused to rethink its China policy of diplomacy which has hit a cul de sac. PM Modi’s handshake at Bali with President Xi Jinping has made little difference. Last week’s 17th round of military talks produced a blank with zero progress on friction points Depsang and Demchok. It is the end of Disengagement without any Deescalation.
Madhav is wrong claiming India is prepared for China. Far from it. Deterrence has broken down and military diplomacy has also failed. The government’s resolve to keep Parliament in the dark and Modi’s reluctance to utter the ‘C’ word add to the complexity of the LAC dilemma. China is extracting maximum advantage from it. One way to rebuild deterrence is through QPQ (Quid Pro Quo) operations like Snow Leopard. Political will is needed for QPQ but so is a worthy allocation to next year’s defence budget to boost deterrence.
On the night of December 18, 1972, President Richard Nixon sent 129 B-52 bombers roaring over North Vietnam. The idea was to break Hanoi’s will and force it to sign a peace treaty that would return our POWs and allow the U.S. to get out of the war.
By the time “the Christmas bombing” of Hanoi and Haiphong ended 50 years ago on Sunday, some 1600 Vietnamese men, women and children had been killed—a number of them in a hospital—but the figure was probably much higher, observers said. And that wasn’t the whole of it. For several days before and after the week-long B-52 campaign, “the U.S. Air Force flew 729 night-time sorties over North Vietnam with devastating effect,” the BBC said.
“It turned out to have been 57 consecutive nights of bombings—57 9/11s, if you will,” the popular historian Erik Larson, author of The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, said in a 2020 interview. “57 consecutive nights of bombings— How does anybody cope with that?”
Ukrainians, blasted daily by Russian missiles and drones, are finding out. Like the North Vietnamese, and the British suffering under nightly Nazi German air raids in the early months of 1940, the Ukrainians are discovering depths of courage and resilience they probably didn’t know they had, in no small measure because of their unexpectedly inspiring, defiant leader. Volodymyr Zelensky has been regularly compared to Winston Churchill since he refused to abandon Kyiv under Russian fire last February and stood up to Vladimir Putin.
“Against all odds and doom-and-gloom scenarios, Ukraine did not fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking,” Zelensky said in a rousing speech to Congress Wednesday night. “…Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender.” Expertly reading the room, the erstwhile comic actor compared his nation’s plight to the American GI’s who bent but did not break under the Nazis in the Battle of the Bulge. Indeed, his speech evoked nothing less than Churchill’s peroration to Britain in its darkest hour, that “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
The terror bombings of London and Hanoi did not break their wills to win. It’s not breaking Kyiv. The same might be said of Tokyo’s denizens, 330,000 of whom died in conflagrations ignited by napalm jelly bombs dropped by American B-29s during the nights of March 9 and 10, 1944. Another year and a half would pass by, with air raids featuring napalm jelly-bombs on 65 more cities, the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and a looming invasion of its northern islands by Russia, before Japan surrendered.
To be sure, the Japanese could be said to have been more mesmerized, rather than inspired by, their emperor’s supposed divinity to hold on. North Vietnam’s police-state leaders regularly invoked the memory of Ho chi Minh to harden the resolve of their people to survive the American bombing and go south to fight. But the point still stands that they did hold on: No emperor or communist dictator could manufacture such sacrifices from an unwilling people. Iran’s mullahs may be coming to that conclusion as well. China may be thinking twice now about an invasion of Taiwan.
Putin’s bombing of Ukraine will not bring him victory. Bogged down in Ukraine’s northeast and south, his conscripted troops facing a highly motivated foe, better and better U.S. and NATO-supplied weaponry, and more and more internal sabotage and subversion, it’s Putin who may end up suing for peace. And that, finally, should bring an end to the myth that air power alone can deliver a victory when ground troops and a navy cannot.
Source: SpyTalk. Click here to read the original