Colombo, July 4: The United States is using the economic crisis in Sri Lanka to rope the Indian Ocean island nation into the anti-China Indo-Pacific alliance the “Quad”.
The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez has urged Quad Foreign Ministers to proactively help Sri Lanka saying that it will demonstrate Quad’s capabilities.
In a letter dated June 10 to Quad Foreign Ministers, Antony Blinken (US), Hayashi Yoshimasa (Japan), S. Jaishankar (India) and Penny Wong (Australia), Menendez urged these countries to proactively help Sri Lanka to demonstrate Quad’s capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region.
Menendez blamed the Rajapaksa brothers and China for the economic and foreign debt crises in Sri Lanka and said that “Sri Lankans of all backgrounds are rising up to make clear that it is time for a change.”
He congratulated the Quad Foreign Ministers on the successful meeting in Tokyo which produced “tangible results”, from boosting vaccine capacity to combating climate change to coordinating activities in cybersecurity, space, and other critical and emerging technologies. He also hailed the newly launched Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) as an important step for the region to build joint maritime capacity and information sharing. Similarly, the launch of the 13-nation Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is a good first step toward deepening economic integration between like-minded allies and partners in the region, he said. Menendez noted that there is strong bipartisan and bicameral support in the US Congress for the Quad.
On Sri Lanka, Menendez said that there is much more the Quad can and should do in the Indian Ocean neighborhood, starting with Sri Lanka.
“The origins of the Quad lie in the collective response by our four nations to the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. In the spirit of that tradition, today’s iteration of the Quad can lead the way in working to avoid an economic implosion in Sri Lanka that could spark a humanitarian crisis with wider, destabilizing, regional impacts.”
Blames Rajapaksas and China
Blaming the rule of the Rajapaksa brothers and China for the dire situation in Sri Lanka, Menendez said: “Under the Rajapaksas, Sri Lanka has been left on the brink of financial ruin and humanitarian catastrophe. Mahinda Rajapaksa led his country straight into a Chinese debt trap and then his brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, failed to take the prudent economic steps necessary to avoid a default on its sovereign debt. Today, Sri Lankans of all backgrounds are rising up to make clear that it is time for a change.”
Menendez noted that New Delhi has already taken a proactive role in providing loans and humanitarian assistance to the Sri Lankan government to avoid a meltdown. And Washington is preparing long-term economic support. Tokyo is providing food assistance to the Sri Lankan people. “These are all positive steps”, the committee chairman said.
On what Quad should do, Menendez said: “There is more than can be done via the Quad, including by mobilizing additional humanitarian assistance, providing badly-needed fuel, and offering technical support and advice in the areas of financial accounting, health, food security, and macroeconomic policy. Through the new Quad Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Mechanism (HADR), Tokyo and Canberra can play a bigger role and demonstrate that the Quad is capable of tackling challenges across the entire breadth of the Indo-Pacific region.”
No Let Up on Human Rights
Not to forget the issue of human rights in Sri Lanka, Menendez said that the Quad should take a common stand on the “war crimes” committed in Sri Lanka during the civil war.
“On the diplomatic front, all four Quad nations must stand together this year at the U.N. Human Rights Council when the body receives the High Commissioner’s report on war crimes committed during Sri Lanka’s civil war. Diplomatic unity would help demonstrate the Quad’s commitment to accountability and respect for international humanitarian laws,” he said
In conclusion, the chairman said: “These sorts of efforts would demonstrate to the entire region that the Quad is a robust, agile and critical component of emergent Indo-Pacific architecture essential to meeting changing circumstances and challenges in the region.”