A report by the US Department of Defense (DoD) has noted moves by the US to broaden its partnership with Sri Lanka.
The report says that within South Asia, the US is working to operationalize its Major Defense Partnership with India, while pursuing emerging partnerships with Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
The report says while the Indian Ocean Region offers unprecedented opportunity, it is also confronting a myriad of security challenges, including terrorism, transnational crime, trafficking-in-persons, and illicit drugs.
To combat these challenges, the United States seeks opportunities to broaden and strengthen partnerships with India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Nepal to respond to shared regional challenges.
Since 2015, DoD has strengthened its relationship with Sri Lanka and increased military engagements significantly, particularly with the Sri Lankan Navy.
“In 2017, we conducted the first port visit in 30 years by a U.S. aircraft carrier – the USS NIMITZ Carrier Strike Group – and the first ever bilateral Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Exercise. In 2019, we increased cooperation on mutual logistics arrangements in support of Indian Ocean security and disaster response,” the Department of Defense’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Report noted.
DoD notes that Sri Lanka, whose strategic location in the Indian Ocean through which 70 percent of maritime traffic passes, has outlined a vision to become a regional hub for logistics and commerce.
Supporting this vision, the U.S. Navy recently initiated a series of temporary cargo transfer initiatives enabling non-lethal re-supply of passing naval vessels in Sri Lanka. These engagements serve as proof of principle for a range of initiatives that would benefit regional connectivity and security, including support to HA/DR. DoD also fully supports countries pursuing multilateral agreements and arrangements to enhance regional security, including the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct to lower tensions in the South China Sea
The report also notes that after 25 years of conflict, the Sri Lankan Government has transitioned to a constitutional, multiparty republic with a freely elected President and Parliament.
DoD also recalled that the political system in Sri Lanka was challenged with a constitutional dispute in late 2018. Ultimately, however, all parties respected the Supreme Court ruling that returned democratic processes and norms, and the military remained uninvolved throughout the dispute. (Colombo Gazette)