Turmoil in the Indian Ocean
Ever since Vasco da Gama and his small flotilla of ships rounded South Africa (which became for them the “The Cape of Good Hope”) in 1498 to enter the Indian Ocean, Western imperial powers have poured into the Asian region and created six centuries of turmoil, making this vast ocean the most militarized piece of water in the universe. In the European Middle Ages, Asian powers like China and India were the richest nations on earth. Earlier, traders from the Middle East, India and China had plied these waters and exchanged goods even with Rome from pre-Christian times without any major conflicts. But Europeans, with their superior military organisations and weaponry, and their insatiable quest for military conquest and booty, spelled disaster for most of Asia. Within a few centuries, the Portuguese, Dutch, British and French had destroyed most of the great nations of Asia whose civilisations are traced to many millennia before the West reached that threshold.
The Second World War, where the imperial powers of the West as well as their Japanese imitator and the USSR fought their life and death struggle for dominance, created the catalyst for the subject nations of Asia and Africa to gain their independence after centuries of oppression and domination. But the struggle for Western dominance of this region continued with their constant interference in the internal affairs of newly independent nations, now operating as agents of “regime change”, to oppose those governments that were not cooperative with Western interests and establish others who would be more accommodating. In Indonesia, the Western plot to oust President Soekarno in 1967 and install Suharto was achieved by the brutal massacre of over half a million “communist sympathisers” between October 1965 and February 1966 and in Vietnam the war against the country to install a puppet regime and frustrate communism cost over 3 million Vietnamese lives and an enduring environmental disaster still haunting Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos that will last many generations.
Today, Western interests in the Indian Ocean region spans the East African littoral states, the Middle East, South Asia, the island nations of the Indian Ocean and East Asia (which it fears will come under Chinese influence). While NATO forces led by the US still fights a major decade long war in Afghanistan which has drained Western government Treasuries, strained military resources and tired their publics patience, it is also carrying out covert military operations in Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, apart from the massive operation in Pakistan mainly using remotely operated attacks by “drones”.
In the light of these developments, people in the small island nation of Sri Lanka are wondering what to make of the latest Wikileaks revelation that the US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, had tried to persuade the Secretary of Defence of that country on 08 December 2009 to send Sri Lankan troops to support NATO operations in Afghanistan.
Sri Lanka has been on the cross hairs of the West for over two decades, since the Indian government under Indira Gandhi nurtured and unleashed the LTTE terrorist movement which cost untold suffering to the people of that country. Being ever ready to seize an advantage when a non-European country experiences internal divisions, the West played it hot and cold during the internal conflict. It proscribed the terrorist group and yet provided them space to operate and raise funds in the West for the war in Sri Lanka while placing an arms embargo that applied to the government. While condemning terrorist violence, Western NGOs and Norwegian peace makers provided covert support for the terrorists at times. So there was consternation in the West when the Sri Lanka government which they had marginalised defeated the LTTE in May 2009 after a two and a half year war which the self confident LTTE initiated. While the terrorist leadership was holed up fighting its last battle, the West took the unprecedented step of trying to negotiate the rescue of the terrorist leadership and their repatriation abroad to fight another day.
Since then, the Sri Lankan government has been the focus of a massive Western-led smear campaign as a human rights violator based on unsubstantiated (and unacknowledged) evidence produced by un-mentioned sources which is regularly shown in the media in the form of gruesome horror videos put together by British Channel 4 TV and copied by other Western media, condemnations by the NATO powers that are endorsed by the UN Secretary-General and repeated ad nauseam by Western NGOs and political leaders in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia. The Sri Lankan military has been denounced as being a brutal organisation that intentionally killed 40,000 civilians (some others put the figure at 100,000) due to sheer lack of concern for innocent lives. Books and articles on the brutality of the Sri Lanka government and military are proliferating and courts of law in the USA, UK and Switzerland are contemplating legal action against selected Sri Lanka leaders.
If all this is true, why would a top US diplomat want these same human rights violating soldiers to fight alongside NATO troops in Afghanistan, whose soldiers presumably have not committed human rights violations by wantonly killing innocent civilians in distant Asian lands?
Now the motivation becomes a little clearer. Let it be said that most Sri Lankans consider Mr. Robert Blake as a sincere friend of their country, and for good reasons. He is a public official while policy decisions are made by the political leadership. But wherever possible, he has shown goodwill towards Sri Lanka. So was his request a possible path to bail out Sri Lanka and rescue it from its tormentors? It is common knowledge that non-European countries that are allied with NATO in its direct or proxy wars, like Ethiopia, Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, are redeemed and never criticised despite being conspicuous rights violators.
Sri Lanka is a highly vulnerable nation because of its strategic location in the Indian Ocean, commanding all the major sea routes, and its natural harbour in Trincomalee, is the best in the region. The major US/NATO operational bases, Djibouti and Diego Garcia (where Britain committed an atrocious human rights violation be expelling the entire Chagossian population to create the military base), are farther removed from the war zone in Afghanistan. In 1958, the Sri Lankan leader, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (himself the subject of Western vilification even now), reclaimed through diplomacy the British bases in the country, including Trincomalee. If not for his foresight, Sri Lanka, like Guatanamo Bay in Cuba, would have become a key centre for NATO military operations and its independence would have long since been compromised.
Baddegama, Sri Lanka.
25 October, 2011.