Feature Article

Naval partnerships off Tamil Eelam coast need perusal at backdrop of structural genocide

[TamilNet, Saturday, 08 September 2018, 22:59 GMT]
Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera visited Colombo from 20th to 22nd August and met high officials of the unitary state of genocidal Sri Lanka, discussing maritime security and development of port facilities. His visits focused on the ports in Colombo, Hambantota and in particular Trincomalee, the capital of the occupied country of Eezham Tamils. The following Week, Japan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Kazuyuki Nakane visited Colombo, amongst others to inaugurate the commissioning ceremony of two state-of-the-art patrol-ships worth around 11 million dollars donated by Japan to the SL Coast Guard. The Japanese collaboration with genocidal Sri Lanka comes as part of a joint U.S., India and Japanese geopolitical move, Tamil political observers in Trincomalee said.

Japanese war ship
Japanese Destroyer Ikazuchi made a 3-day-visit to Trincomalee on August 20, 2018
US war ship in Trincomalee
The USS Amphibious Transport Dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23),along with the13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Trincomalee on August 24.
Indian war ship in Trinco
Three Indian naval ships Kirch, Sumitra and Cora Divh (T71 seen in the photo) entered Trincomalee on Friday for joint exercises with the SL Navy between September 07 and September 13
This is akin to the same sort of approach designed during the times of Norway-facilitated peace process, which was hijacked by the so-called Tokyo Co-Chairs of the same strategic partners, they said. The role of Japan's Special Peace Envoy Yasushi Akashi was also based on the maritime outlook of the same strategic partnership during the times of the peace process. The Japanese role was seeking to contain and sideline the parity of Eezham Tamils in the island during the peace process.

After carrying out the genocidal onslaught with the direct and indirect backing of the world powers, the SL State now wants to de-link the territorial integrity of the homeland of Eezham Tamils through Sinhalicising the Naayaa'ru-Kokku'laay-Pulmoaddai belt while keeping an integrated Eastern Naval Area of the occupying Sinhala Navy and the SL Mahaweli Authority intensifying genocidal land-grab along the coastal territory of Eezham Tamils.

And the Eezham Tamils also witness increased maritime activity of military and economic nature along the eastern coast.

To Trincomalee, Japan’s Defence Minister was accompanied by the SL Navy’s Eastern Area Naval Commander Rear Admiral Sumith Weerasinghe. During his visit, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s naval vessel Ikazuchi was also docked at Trincomalee port, and the Japanese minister boarded the ship and met the crew.

There has been a range of opinion pieces in the recent times, by Indian and Sinhala analysts canvassing the idea of increased inter-engagement between India and Japan regarding the island.

Before Mr Onodera’s visit to Colombo, he held deliberations with India’s Defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Japanese media reported the event stating that the Tokoyo and New Delhi agreed to start negotiation on the Acquisition and Cross Service Agreement, aimed to enhance the interoperability, compatibility and cooperation between the Japanese and Indian navies, logistics and their respective maritime defence capacities.

SL PM meets Japanese Def Min
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, left, meets with SL Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo on Aug. 21. [Photo courtesy: Reuters]

Eastern Naval Area
‘Eastern Naval Area’ as defined by the occupying SL Navy [Image courtesy: navy.lk]
Mahaweli, System L and B
‘Mahaweli Master plan’ currently targeting Mullaiththeevu, Batticaloa and Ampaa'rai through System L and System B [Image courtesy:mahaweli.gov.lk]
The Agreement being worked out between Japan and India is modelled on the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) entered between the USA under the Obama administration and India under the leadership of Modi’s BJP regime on 29th August 2016.

The ‘Malabar’ naval exercise, which began in 1992 to ‘enhance the interoperability’ of the two naval forces, in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, signalled the U.S push towards India, and New Delhi's gradual inclusion with U.S ambitions to secure hegemony in the Indian Ocean region.

Although the exercises were stalled due to New Delhi’s nuclear testing in the late 1990’s, since 2001, it has been held with regularity and increased the structural ties.

The latest 22nd Malabar Naval exercise was held from June 7th to June 16th off the sea of Guam, near a U.S naval base in the Philippines sea and was joined by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Last year, Australia was also part of such inter-operability exercises between the U.S, Japanese and Indian navies.

In the aftermath of the U.S push for India, Washington staunchest ally in the Pacific, Japan, is also following suit.

From the 19th December to 22nd December in 2013, the first Japan – India Maritime Exercise (JIMEX), was held off the Bay of Bengal.

Japan became a permanent member of the Malabar naval exercises since 2015.

Japanese strategic policies have followed the line known as the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) policy, which aims for an economic and military or defence cooperation amongst the allied countries in the Pacific Indian Ocean region also with an objective to counter China’s grip on specific locations in the maritime routes.

In recent weeks, Japan's top officers have been visiting the island, to meet their counterparts here and to negotiate and sign bilateral agreements and cement ties on maritime security and development, including of ports and airfields.

While the economic cooperation between the countries could be traced back to the days of open-market policies of UNP’s J.R Jayewardene regime in Colombo, the intense pursuit of maritime security ties and defence cooperations manifest in recent years is consolidating the systems interlinking the USA, Japan and India further in the Indian Ocean Region.

Tokyo's strategic engagement in the island has been along the lines of Washington. It could also be traced to the Ceasefire Agreement processes between the GoSL and the LTTE.

Japan and Norway were on the cards to be chosen by the GoSL and the LTTE, as the facilitator cum mediator after LTTE seizing Elephant Pass and its stunning Katunayake operation.

Japan was also one of the leading members of the Tokyo Co-chair Donors.

The Co-chair formation ultimately started to tilt the diplomatic balance of the peace process to the favour of Colombo driving it towards the genocidal onslaught. The European Union, under the influence of the UK and the USA, was also a partner to this tilt.

The latest U.S. push in the Indian Ocean, or its pivot Asia, has given fruition in the fact that the New Delhi’s geopolitical and strategic interests have increasingly been aligned subserviently under the orbit of U.S interests and influences within the Indian Ocean and the Pacific region.

This brings the South Asian region of the Indian Ocean increasingly under the overall U.S influence and facilitates Washington and its allies ‘inter-operational’ capacity and presence in this region.

This is reflected in the official change in terminology and operation from the US Pacific Command (USPACOM) to US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM).

It in this light that the recent intensification of Japan – Sri Lanka ties should be grasped.

CNBs in Eastern Naval Area
There are 13 so-called ‘Commissioned Navy Bases’ in the Eastern Naval Area of the SL Navy [Image courtesy: navy.lk]

As far as the nation of Eezham Tamils are concerned, the strategic location of the genocide-riddled island is again used to strengthen Colombo's structural genocide against them.

The adamant attitude of characterising the accelerated genocide against Eezham Tamils as ‘post-conflict’ and placing the cart before the horse through the so-called 'transitional justice’ and one-way ‘reconciliation’ need perusal also in this geopolitical context.

The powers are preoccupied with the crucial strategic location of the island, with its maritime resources such as the Trincomalee harbour facing South-East Asia and the Bay of Bengal and Hambantota and Colombo ports in the South are located at the confluence of the waters of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. These are the world’s busiest sea-trading lines facilitating the global trade between the West and East.

Japan’s dependency on energy and oil imports through the straits of Hormuz and the Suez Canal, also elevates the strategic location of the island, to provide security to such a flux of maritime trade. The fact that alongside the U.S it also operates a base in Djibouti underscores the interests in consolidating their presence in the island as well as in the waters off the island.

During the Rajapakse regime itself, the Japanese initiative seemed to have been intensified. On March 15, 2013, the then President Mahinda Rajapakse met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokoyo. A joint statement said that the heads of states reached an agreement to ‘upgrade and expand’ bilateral ties and engage in discussion to ‘effectively address maritime issues common to both countries’.

The issues common to both the states can be deemed as in the last instance determined by the U.S strategic interests in the Region.

On 7th of September 2014, PM Abe visited Colombo and met with SL President Rajapaksa, and the event marked the first time in 24 years a Japanese head of state visiting the island. His visit to Colombo, also followed a visit to India to discuss similar maritime and military as well development cooperation between New Delhi and Tokoyo.

On 12th June 2014, the chief of staff of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force had met President Mahinda Rajapaksa and discussed ways to strengthen the bilateral ties on security concerns including that of maritime security.

Before his visit, over the course of 18 months, 15 Japanese Navy ships had visited Colombo. Japan had also shown a keen interest in utilising other ports in the island, particularly the Hambantota port.

In 2015, PM Shinzo Abe and SL PM Ranil Wickremesinghe inaugurated the Japan-Sri Lanka Joint Comprehensive Partnership (JCP), which provided a framework for multi-layered engagement between Japan and Sri Lanka.

One of the pillars in this agreement beside that which aims at Japanese investment and development projects in the island was that of maritime security and defence ties.

On March 15 2018, SL President Maithirpala Sirisena visited Japan on a ten-day tour, during which he met the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokoyo. During their meeting, they agreed to strengthen and further bilateral cooperation in enhancing maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region.

Abe promised Tokyo assistance to Colombo ‘in capacity building for maritime law enforcement’ as part of strengthening defence ties, the Japan Times reported. The heads of both the states also reiterated ‘cooperation in upgrading the Indian Ocean country’s infrastructure, such as port facilities in Colombo, in an attempt to bolster connectivity in the region’ the Japan Times media report continued.

The Japanese media have also gone on record citing State officials viewing Colombo as an essential component of Japan's Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy and towards countering Chinese influence in this strategic region. The Japanese Prime minister stated: “our two countries will work hand in hand to make the Indo-Pacific a global commons to provide peace and prosperity for countries indiscriminately.”

The 3rd Sri Lanka – Japan Dialogue on Maritime Security, Safety and Oceanic issues was convened on 19 July 2018, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo.

These series of dialogues between Japanese and Sinhala officials is a central component of the JPC which was agreed upon in 2015.

A significant and recurrent theme emphasised by the Sinhala officials visiting Japan and visa versa in the recent decade has been that of maritime security and the need to expand and upgrade cooperation.

The main component of the discussions has centred around the maritime concerns in the Indo-pacific region, highlighting cooperation on ports, shipping and mutual engagement in marine safety and security as well as the multilateral arrangements among the allied countries in the region.

The Colombo based news service Financial Times reported that “[a]ppreciation was expressed by the Government of Sri Lanka for the extensive support extended by the Government of Japan to improve the maritime safety capabilities of the Sri Lanka Coast Guard, including through the provision of two patrol vessels and numerous training opportunities.”

As a result of the meeting, Tokyo and Colombo agreed to further strengthen collaboration between the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Forces and the SL Navy, Airforce and the SL Coast Guard.

There was also mutual commitment to enhance cooperation through multilateral organs such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

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External Links:
Eurasia Review: Sri Lanka: Oil Exploration In Eastern Seas Begins
SL Ministry of Petroleum Resources Development: Largest 2D Seismic Survey for Oil and Gas Exploration commence in Sri Lanka



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