Colombo, May 30 (newsin.asia): In a further step towards strengthening military ties between Sri Lanka and the United States, the Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena, has asked the US to help upgrade the technology used by his country’s armed forces.
Sirisena made this request during a meeting with a delegation from the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee here on Monday.
The delegation comprised Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry; Henry Cuellar, Vickie Hartzler and Carol Shea-Porter.
The Lankan President recalled the assistance given by the U.S in training the Sri Lankan forces and said that training programs are being held routinely. But he went on to point out “the necessity of using more technological knowledge to further promote these programs,” a Presidential press release said.
“There is no defense without technology in the modern world,” Sirisena told the US Congressional Committee
To control narcotics smuggling into Sri Lanka, the cooperation of the United States Security forces is needed, the President added.
Sri Lanka is not an end user of narcotics, but it is a favorite transit point given the easy entry provided to visitors on account of the fact that the island is a tourist destination.
The Congressional committee members readily agreed to provide assistance to prevent drug trafficking into Sri Lanka. They also said that the internal security of Sri Lanka is important for regional security and world peace.
“We are in Sri Lanka to find out what can be done to strengthen cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries,” the committee members said.
U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap said that across the U.S. government, we see value in expanding our security partnership in ways that benefit the United States and Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka’s progress as a democracy that will protect the rights of all its citizens and promote their prosperity regardless of ethnicity or religion can create opportunities for our growing military-to-military cooperation,” Keshap added.
US-Lanka Military Ties
The first steps towards greater military cooperation was taken during the 2002-2004 ceasefire between the Lankan forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Agreements to give Sri Lanka assistance in terms of military training, military technology, intelligence, special training in counter-terrorism, and direct monetary assistance for military development, were signed.
A US Pacific team conducted a study from September 12, 2002 to October 24, 2002 on the capability of the Lankan armed forces to face the LTTE if the ceasefire agreement were to breakdown.
The team’s report recommended the use of cluster bombs, which, at the time was not banned. The ban on these came only in 2010 when the Cluster Munitions Convention came into effect.
The Kfir fighters and MI-24 helicopters of the Lankan Air Force were to be armed with guided weapons. To strengthen the navy, and enable it to interdict LTTE vessels bringing in ammunition and other military material, the US donated the SLNS Samudura.
On March 5, 2007, the US Defense Department and Sri Lanka signed the Acquisition and Cross-Services Agreement (ACSA), which provided for logistics and re-fuelling facilities in Sri Lankan ports to US naval vessels.
During the last 2006-2009 war against the LTTE, the US Pacific Command along with India provided intelligence on the movements of the LTTE’s “floating warehouses”.
Armed with accurate intelligence, the Lankan navy destroyed eight of the “floating warehouses” which eventually led to the collapse of the LTTE on land.
In March 2017, the US Pacific Fleet conducted a “humanitarian disaster relief and response exercise” at the Hambantota Port and its environs in collaboration with the Sri Lankan, Japanese and Australian navies.
That the exercises was held in Chinese built Hambantota port was seen as significant in the context of American concerns over China’s increasing presence in Sri Lanka and fears that China could use the Hambantota port for military purposes.
In August 2017, the US and Sri Lankan navy divers conducted a Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) at the US Naval Base in Guam.
On September 1, 2017, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice G. Wells, told an Indian Ocean conference in Colombo: “We are also expanding our navy-to-navy relationship with Sri Lanka, with our first-ever naval exercise set for October.”
The exercise was called Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) and was held off Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka.
Wells said that countries of the Indian Ocean region must be able to effectively counter security threats in the Indian Ocean.
“Through joint capacity building and exercises, we can share the security burden in this increasingly complex region.”
“The United States has sought to improve intelligence sharing among regional partners and capacity building in areas like community policing, counter-narcotics, aviation security and forensics analysis.”
“There is also a critical need to expand engagement on maritime domain awareness.”
“In the increasingly crowded maritime environment, the sharing of reliable information is the foundation for greater cooperation,” Wells said.
After a US-Lanka partnership dialogue in November 2017, the two countries issued a statement acknowledging the bilateral and regional strategic benefits of increased military cooperation.
Cooperation envisaged included the U.S. Marine Corps’ role in helping establish the Sri Lanka Marine Corps; sending Sri Lankan candidates to professional military academies in the United States; holding several bilateral exercises and ship visits and engagements among top military officials.
The US also announced the gifting of a second Coast Guard cutter to the Sri Lankan navy.
(The image at the top shows the Chairman of the US House Armed force Committee McClellen Thornberry with Lankan President Maitrhipala Sirisena)