Oct 23, 2006

To China With Love

Stratfor’s take on the Sri Lanka-US military exercises scheduled for the last week of October (since postponed link via Jaffna) is very different from the perceived notion of the United States wanting to surround India strategically. According to them it is a message to China to keep off from the Indian Ocean area because it “belongs” to India and USA.

…the site of the maneuvers [between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Sri Lankan navy] -- off the southern beaches of Hambantoa, where China is planning to build modern harbor facilities -- shows that India likely signed off on this venture as a way to signal to China that the Indian Ocean is U.S.-Indian territory.

Whatever Washington's reasons for the exercises, the maneuvers could not happen without India's permission. Though New Delhi is not nearly the geopolitical powerhouse that Washington is, the United States has anointed India as its junior partner in the Indian Ocean. The United States -- and other members of the Sri Lankan Donors Group, which assists with post-tsunami rebuilding and brokers peace talks -- traditionally consults with India on all decisions related to Colombo.

It is precisely this interest in regional pre-eminence that led India to give the go-ahead for U.S. forces to participate in a major training exercise geared toward fighting the Tamil insurgency. After all, India cannot risk offending its own sizable Tamil minority if there is not a substantial reward involved. In this case, the reward is the chance to send a targeted message to one particular country with the U.S.-Sri Lankan exercises: China.


…. The United States, with Indian assistance, intends to maintain the Indian Ocean as its own strategic waterway. China's intrusion into the area by building ports at Gwadar in Pakistan, in Myanmar and now possibly in Bangladesh irks New Delhi. Thus, it is no coincidence that the exact area of the U.S.-Sri Lankan exercises is Hambantota, the very harbor that China announced it would begin developing for Colombo in 2005.

Chinese President Hu Jintao's upcoming visit, during India's National Day, will give both sides a chance to mend some fences, but the U.S. Marine Corps exercises reveal a deeper geopolitical reality: The United States and India will not tolerate Chinese expansion, especially into the Indian Ocean.[Stratfor]


Nitin said...


Good update. It's unfortunate that the Indian government is paralysed with respect to power projection in Sri Lanka.

Apollo said...

RS, the stratfor could be right.But i wouldn't credit the Indian govt with so much forethought. most probably the Americans twisted the Indian govt's arm to do ironically what is in India's own best interests.

RS said...

Yes. We are in a catch 22 situation vis-a-vis SL. Pakistan is taking full advantage of this and there are reports that Tamil civilians are being bombed by Pakistan airforce pilots.

I for one is of the firm belief that our MEA is run out of Washington DC. Anyways this particular decision as u said is good for us.