Feature Article

Tamils risk Kashmir-like status revocation if Gota continues Trinco military cooperation with US

[TamilNet, Saturday, 31 October 2020, 10:58 GMT]
Certain quarters have been misplacing the significance of the recent visit of US State Secretary Mike Pompeo to Colombo vis-à-vis the national question of the Eezham Tamils. SL President and Commander-in-Chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s choice to continue the already on track military cooperation with the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) is the determining factor, particularly at the strategic port city of Trincomalee of the occupied country of Eezham Tamils. One has to judge the geopolitical orientation of the SL State based on the defence-related choices being made and not based on polemics of Rajapaksa's ‘non-alignment’, or the escalating ‘predator’ vs ‘friend’ rhetoric between the US and China. Wherever Pompeo goes, be it London or Colombo, this rhetoric is the same.

On Friday, the Indian Navy test-fired an anti-ship missile hitting a maximum-range target in the Bay of Bengal in a show of demonstrating its ability to hit adversary vessels with “precise accuracy” from Guided Missile Corvette, according to a tweet and imagery released by the Indian Navy.

The same day, the Indian Air Force air-launched a supersonic cruise missile hitting a test-target in the Bay of Bengal.

The latest field demonstrations aimed at China come a week after a similar show of strength in the Arabian Sea on the western side of the Indian Ocean, where New Delhi passed a slightly different military message of ‘deadly accuracy’ to Pakistan and by extension to China.

The Indian hard power demonstrations in the Indian Ocean came ahead of the India-led Malabar 2020 naval exercise between the four major actors of the “Quadrilateral” (Quad), the Indo-Pacific defence cooperation between Japan, Australia, India and the US.

The phase one of the Quad war games commences on November 03 off Visakhapatnam, the port city of Andhra Pradesh in the Bay of Bengal. The second part of the war games is scheduled to take place in the Arabian Sea between November 17 and 20.

The war games come following India’s decision to include Australia in the Malabar 2020 earlier this month, especially after the 2020 ministerial Quad meeting that took place in Tokyo on 06 October. The meeting was also described as the first standalone Quad meeting.

A key decision taken at the Quad meeting was to chart and work with other “like-minded” partners.

Eezham Tamils need to perceive Pompeo’s visit to Colombo as a Quad invitation to Rajapaksa establishment to strengthen SL’s “like-minded” partner status.

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While in Colombo, Pompeo said: “Indeed, a strong, sovereign Sri Lanka is a powerful and strategic partner for the United States on the world stage. It can be a beacon for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Eezham Tamils need to be aware that the SL military under the present SL President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been already militarily collaborating with the US as witnessed in the one-month long training provided by the Green Berets in Trincomalee in March 2020. It was Gotabaya who signed military cooperation SOFA agreement with US in the year 2007.

The soon-to-retire SL Air Force Commander, Air Marshal Sumangala Dias, has been taking part in the Pacific Air Chiefs Symposiums at the invitation of Commander of the United States Air Force Pacific Command, also during the presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

While the Chinese infrastructure projects and increased engagement has triggered concerns of the increased influence of Beijing, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been claiming that no harm would befall the so-called sovereignty of the unitary state of genocidal Sri Lanka.

In the meantime, the “international safety-net” fame former SL Minister and think-tanker, Milinda Moragoda, now serving as the High-Commissioner to India has been busy arranging “interlocutor” contacts to maintain diplomatic relations between the SL State and the US-India alliance.

With a broad range of connections in Washington DC and with a cabinet-rank appointment, Moragoda is serving Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the point of direct diplomatic contact with the Indian PM Narendra Modi.

Eezham Tamils need not perceive Pompeo’s visit as a move intended to threaten Colombo as sections of Western and the Indian-influenced writers want them to believe.

Beyond the mist of rhetorics and polemics, Eezham Tamils should see the repeating US appeasement of genocidal Sri Lanka. Pompeo seems to be highly concerned about upholding the ‘sovereign’ and ‘democratic’ version of genocidal Sri Lanka.

Last year, Mr Pompeo had cancelled a scheduled visit fearing repercussions due to the electoral politics in the South.

Now, the elections are over, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa has consolidated the parliamentary and constitutional discourse in his favour. The ‘interlocutors’ have been busily working between the Rajapaksa regime and the Trump Administration ahead of Pompeo’s India visit.

The real intention behind the Asia visit of the US defence and state secretaries was to finalise the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), the last of the foundational defence agreements with India. New Delhi and Washington DC were rushing to complete it before the US elections.

One should also note that the US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper who accompanied Mike Pompeo to New Delhi didn't visit Colombo.

“In a wide-ranging discussion with His Excellency, the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and our own discussions have generated a renewed momentum to the conversations with key American interlocutors have had with Sri Lankan leaders over the past months this year,” said SL Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardene at the press availability with Mr Pompeo in Colombo on Wednesday.

He reiterated the role of the “key US interlocutors” in his address:

“And as we go along, Secretary, today’s discussions are a continuation of interactions of His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with key US interlocutors, dialogue which took place virtually between myself and Secretary Pompeo a few months ago. ”

He was repeating it after saying the following:

“The U.S. has been a friend and assisting Sri Lanka in times of difficulty, and we remain deeply grateful for your support. US assistance to Sri Lanka after the Asian tsunami in 2004 was significant. I recall the visits of former President George Bush Sr. and former President Bill Clinton, their assistance in the aftermath. Also in the recent times of Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in April 2019 and also most recently for the COVID-19 mitigation. Especially, I also extend my sincere thanks and appreciation once again for proscribing the LTTE terrorist organization even before 9/11 attacks and up to now.”

The right way of assessing the real significance of Pompeo's visit is to interpret the ground developments in the coming weeks and months, especially in Trincomalee.

If Gotabaya Rajapaksa continues with US military interactions and the US warships continue to dock at Trincomalee, it would signal accomplishment of the so-called ‘Moragoda Doctrine’. The trend could go to the extent of the scrapping of the provincial council system. Moragoda has been calling for the end of the PC system through his think-tank for some time.

Apart from the Hindutva politics, China-India geopolitics also played a significant role in triggering the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

The pattern of Pompeo's “sovereignty” concerns of Sri Lanka is a wrong signal as far as the Eezham Tamils are concerned.

Tamils need to judge the geopolitical trends based on the impacts felt by them on the ground by the erosion of their territorial integrity, distinct sovereignty and the right of self-determination, all of which are different from that of the unitary state of Sri Lanka.

They have to also go beyond the parliamentary politics in making the point that the SL State is illegitimate as far as the nation of Eezham Tamils is concerned.


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External Links:
US Department of State : Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Opening Remarks at Quad Ministerial
The Print: Trump or Biden? Doesn’t matter to India-US ties as they’re in a full, strategic embrace
US Department of State : Secretary Michael R. Pompeo and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at a Press Availability


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