Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Are Indian and Chinese militaries in a tussle to become closer to Sri Lankan military?

Close on the heels of Sri Lanka's army commander's visit to the Indian Military Academy's(IMA) passing out parade General Ma Xiaotian, Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) visited Sri Lanka.  This unmistakably indicates that there has been keen interest on the part of two countries to forge close military ties with Sri Lanka. This keen interest can rather be described as a sort of a tussle by the two powers to win over Sri Lanka. This again unmistakably the tussle between the two powers to dominate the Indian Ocean region.

Military ties between China and Sri Lanka were largely confined to the supply of arms, naval crafts and aircrafts by the former during the last four to five decades. The training stints given to Sri Lankan military personnel in the Chinese military academies were not as large as Indian and Pakistani military academies have been offering to SL. However, with the beginning of president Rajapaksha's tenure there has been a marked increase of training stints offered to SL armed forces personnel in the Chinese military academies. So PLA's General's visit obviously indicates that there will be a further increased opportunities to SL military personnel to train in PLA's academies.

Though Military ties between India and Sri Lanka has been historically close the disastrous policies adopted by the Indian governments towards Sri Lanka have made Indian military less friendly to Sri Lankans. They include Indian military's involvement in training LTTE carders in India, aggression by Indian air force and navy violating Sri Lanka's air space and its seas respectively to force JR Jayawardana government to stop successful Vadamarachchi military campaign which saved Prabhakaran to wage the terrorism for further 20 years, sending Indian army (IPKF) to force upon us the so called  'Political Solution' and finally refusal to sell necessary weaponry to the marooned 40,000 troops in the besieged Jaffana peninsula and instead willing to provide vessels to a near impossible evacuation mission.    

On the other hand Chinese government including PLA has been one of the few countries which were steadfastly behind Sri Lanka's successful military campaign against terrorism. Apart from being the biggest arms supplier to Sri Lanka China had been regularly supplying arms without any hindrance though many countries including India refused to do so.

It seems Sri Lankan armed forces and PLA have opened a new chapter in their relationship with the two countries' military ties further strengthened. However, we are yet to see the reaction by the Indian government to this strengthened military ties between China and SL. If India indeed does react it may be overt or covert or may be a combination of both. India's reaction to perceived SL's closeness to the US ie training LTTE cadres in India was of course covert though it became overt later.   

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