President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may not be in the US administration, if the 3 November Presidential Election brings into office the more popular Joe Biden, come January 2021. But whoever comes to the world’s most powerful office, US perspectives of policing the globe – including the other side of it – ‘in defence of the American continent’ will not change.
From Sri Lanka’s perspectives of its security, territorial integrity and sovereignty over its land, sea and air space, Pompeo’s brief visit has to be given the seriousness it deserves, as if Donald Trump has in fact won!
The visit has made clear Sri Lanka’s foreign policy of neutrality and non-alignment in its external relations being underscored at the highest level by the country’s President and reiterated by the island’s Foreign Minister.
Relations between Sri Lanka and other nations
Though neutrality and non-alignment are the safest ‘bomb shelters’ for small nations like Sri Lanka, external relations will become a challenging task given the rising confrontational exchanges between the US and the Asian giant China. The US did not hide its anti-China rhetoric, in the high-level meetings not only in Colombo but also in New Delhi, Male, Jakarta and Hanoi.
Nevertheless President Gotabaya Rajapaksa enhanced his ratings by diplomatically rejecting the debt trap allegation. In more clear terms the President said that ‘historic and cultural relations’ and ‘development cooperation’ are some of the priorities that will determine relations between Sri Lanka and other nations.
What US promoters here fail to comprehend is that China is essentially a fall back priority for the Government, given the US-backed resolution against the ‘war heroes’ pending in the UN Human Rights Council. UN Security Council’s official records, for years following the May 2009 defeat of the LTTE, would show the attempts of those alleging war crimes, to bring Sri Lanka before the Security Council as well. These attempts were later abandoned, perhaps fearing the Chinese veto.
What Sri Lanka will never digest is that, the US having quit the UN HRC after labelling it as a “cesspool” is continuing to ostracise Sri Lanka through its proxies in the same “cesspool”! This does not mean however that Sri Lanka must not have its own credible investigation into the allegations.
An independent investigation cum inquiry commanded by a non-pan Sinhala Presidential Commission of Inquiry comprising current judges will certainly help uphold the reputation of the country’s management of its armed forces. It will also help close a loophole for external interferences.
A zone of peace
Pompeo at the 28 October meeting with the President has said that the US wishes to see that the “Indian Ocean ‘remains’ a zone of peace”. It is admittedly a zone of peace today. The sea lanes are working well except for narcotic smuggling and occasional conflicts in fisheries exploitation. But the US war lobby can be seen creating a highly exaggerated threat perception in this zone of peace.
Significantly, the threat is created partly by the unnecessary US presence in this part of the globe. The US has deliberately put up the otherwise sleeping non-invasive giant, China as it did to the Islamic world in the 1980s and thereafter, by manufacturing Islamophobia.
US military presence here in the Indian Ocean will by itself ensure that the Indian Ocean ceases to ‘remain’ a zone of peace. Tensions with China will cease in and around South Asia, if the US will revert to the original ‘US-Pacific’ model terminating in the Straits of Malacca from the present ‘Indo-Pacific’ and leave the ‘Indian Ocean’ to the countries in South Asia. That of course is a mighty wish that Sri Lanka must add on to the ongoing COVID-19 prayers!
The truth is that the US and NATO countries need wars to keep the thousand and more arms industry factories going on working at least a single shift per day. The years ahead will unfold this truth as had been shown in the past.
The Nobel Peace Prize must be awarded to anyone who can show a single year during the last 100 years in which the US/NATO had not been involved in wars in a third world country. Thus we need today ‘watch dogs’ to protect South Asia from retired ‘generals’ who, and frontal ‘organisations’ which promote bloodstained warmongers.
It is a known fact that the US Secretary of State Pompeo is a former Director of the American CIA. But his deputy in the delegation Brian Bulatao, a former soldier turned businessman, is also one whom Pompeo had recruited as CEO of CIA in 2017. Bulatao was called a ‘bully’ by those who opposed Pompeo’s appointment!
Several Buddhist monks including the well-known Elle Gunawansa Thera, Muruththettuwe Ananda Nayaka Thera, Chief of the Narahenpita Abheyarama Temple and several others have in a letter addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa referred to a press conference held on 15 April 2019 where Pompeo had reportedly admitted that when he was Director at the CIA, “We have lied; we have cheated; we have robbed; we have been trained for that.”
The monks were probably cautioning the President about the high-profile US dignitary’s CIA training! It would be best to remember that today’s Buddhist monks, thanks to pirivena and university education are aware of foreign mechanisations and interferences, which powerful countries aided by their local promoters engineer by dividing communities and creating internal conflicts.
Conflict of interest
We need also to be alert to the conflict of interest in the area of national security between Sri Lanka and the world’s powerful countries. Western intelligence and investigative agencies were also well known for deceptive media leaks and toppling governments which do not fall in line with their country’s military objectives.
These agencies are often used for creating divisions and conflicts. We need to be conscious that the objectives of countries manufacturing arms are invariably in conflict with the dreams of third world countries which are in search of peace. A clear example is the highly militarised relationship between India and the US.
Pompeo’s and US Defence Secretary Mark Esper’s 26 October visit to India can be evaluated from the US standpoint as exceptionally successful. India will buy sophisticated missile technologies, armed drones, US F-18 fighter jets and much more from the US.
Indian arms purchases are said to be currently in the region of $ 20 billion, which is equivalent to Indian Rupees 1,470,000,000,000 or Sri Lanka Rupee 3,680,000,000,000. The $ 20 billion arms deal with India may be compared with Sri Lanka’s total 2019 import bill of $ 19.9 billion and total 2019 export earnings of $ 11.9 billion!
US success in India
One need not be surprised at the US success in India. That is because US Defence Secretary Mark Esper who was in the US 2+2 delegation to India was originally a very influential arms contractor lobbyist. He later became a Vice President at the US multinational conglomerate Raytheon Technologies, one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world.
Earlier on Esper was in the US Heritage Foundation. This Foundation developed what came to be known as the Reagan Doctrine of arms support to anti-communist cells worldwide. (Probably they may be presently studying arms support to anti-Islamic and anti-Chinese communist cells worldwide.) Heritage Foundation also advocated the development of new ballistic missile systems adopted by the then US government.
So Mark Esper had been part and parcel of the US arms manufacturing industry. US military institutions work hand in glove with the US arms industry. The arms industry works with sections of the Western media, powerful defence lobbyists, front organisations such as foundations and some sponsored civil societies. Esper would have been laughing all the way back to the States as to how the poor of India were financing the powerful US weapons manufacturers! But in fairness to Pompeo and Esper they are also loyal American citizens, flag bearers of President Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ policy.
That is only one side of the dollar! There is always the other side. Is it not a crime for the powerful warmongers abetted by the US State machinery, to ‘rob’ the Indians with a high rate of poverty of such whopping sums of money, a mighty portion of which will end up in the safes of the super-rich? Did they ‘lie, cheat and rob’ our big brother?
Are the Indian leaders supported by an army of warmongers, including sections in the media equally culpable of ‘lying, cheating and robbing’ the poor in our part of the world? So they say!
Where is the UN?
Be that as it may. Where in the world is the UN? Is it beyond the ability and capacity of the Indian and Chinese leaders to sign peace agreements instead of listening to warmongers? That call however will certainly remain a far cry from the wilderness! Because the arms industry, as the late Justice C.G. Weeramantry of International Court of Justice (ICJ) fame said, is firmly established while the peace lobby is extremely weak.
(The writer is a former Member of Parliament).