Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday stressed the importance of safeguarding the security of India when safeguarding the security of his country.
“When it comes to the security of Sri Lanka, we are of the view that in looking after the security of Sri Lanka, we must also ensure that nothing adverse happens to the security of India. That we have been committed to, and we will go ahead with it. There will be no movement out of it.
“That’s why we work with India on the Colombo conclave, on the trilateral security arrangements and many other fields, especially outside the military field of piracy, of human trafficking, of drugs. All those are useful ways in which we cooperate with India and the other island states,” he said, addressing the first-ever graduation ceremony of the National Defence College here.
Wickremesinghe who said that the China-run southern port in Hambantota would not allowed to be used as a military port but only a commercial port.
He said that the Indian Ocean region should be opened to all to ensure freedom of navigation for commercial viability.
He noted that Sri Lanka will not participate in military alliances and do not want the problems of the Pacific coming into the Indian Ocean, while urging the countries in the Indian Ocean region to come together to look at how best to maintain stability of the region.
The President also noted that the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean has made Sri Lanka the “punching bag” for Hambantota. He said there are around 17 ports that are operated by the Chinese in the Indian Ocean and all are commercial ports, as he stressed that Hambantota is also a commercial port and not a military port.
Wickremesinghe noted that if there is security significance, it is in the Australian
port of Darwin where the Chinese ports are operating side by side with the area the Australian and US forces used for training.
Referring to Sri Lanka’s military in southern part of the country, he said: “We have a divisional headquarters of the army and we have a detachment of the air force. But none of them are involved. They only ensure that this is a commercial port and no less.
“As it is a commercial port, it shows Sri Lanka’s strategic importance that many people sort of come to conclusions which are unwarranted.”
The President also expressed hope that the next agreement Sri Lanka has with China, will not cause such speculation, and it is only about debt reduction for Sri Lanka.
“That is important for commerce to carry on. We have to remember that bulk of the petroleum supply and energy supply to the world goes through the Indian Ocean. A large amount of shipping goes through the Indian Ocean. We don’t want this to be an area of conflict and an area of war.”
He noted that Sri Lanka does not want to see big power rivalry in the Indian Ocean, as such rivalry could get reflected everywhere. He said that Sri Lanka is open to the navies of all countries and there is no discrimination.
“If the navies want to come, we have no problem. They helped in the anti-piracy operations. But we don’t want a level of rivalry which will affect the security and the peace of our area. Whatever it be that we will not join any big power or take sides, we will stay out of it. And that’s why we want to ensure that the big powers and the rivalry don’t need to certainly lead to conflict in the Indian Ocean. That’s one thing we can’t afford.”
The President also said that Sri Lanka should not allow any other country to use it to
attack third parties. He also said that a proper plan needs to be set to determine the
roles of Sri Lanka’s Army, Navy and Air Force in the future battlefield.