The US is threatening to use economic means to pressure Sri Lanka’s “deep state” into reversing its decision to appoint Shavendra Silva as its new army chief, which if successful would amount to the country’s strategic capitulation to the Pentagon and the likely clinching of a new “Status Of Forces Agreement” later this year after the elections that could turn the island nation into America’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier” for “containing” China.
“The US Wants Sri Lanka To Become Its Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier In South Asia“, as the author wrote earlier this summer, by getting it to clinch a new “Status Of Forces Agreement” (SOFA) later this year after the elections that could turn the island nation into a premier American outpost for “containing” China in the Afro-Asian (“Indian”) Ocean, but that plan has suddenly been thrown into doubt after the country appointed Shavendra Silva as its new army chief. Reuters published a piece last week about how “U.S. warns Sri Lanka on investment, military ties after army chief promotion“, quoting an unnamed Washington official who said that the elevation of this civil war hero to the country’s highest military post is a cause for concern in bilateral relations after he’s been accused of carrying out human rights abuses in the final stage of that long-running conflict.
The source said that the new SOFA might not happen if Silva remains in his position, and they also suggested that the US might not go through with its plans to provide a $480 million grant through the US Millennium Challenge Corporation for modernizing the nation’s transport infrastructure, which could in turn increase its strategic dependence on China in response and possibly revive some of the anti-government sentiment that led to former President Rajapaksa’s surprising narrow electoral loss in 2015. In the current political context, this threat might scare voters into punishing Sirisena (who recently allied with Rajapaksa late last year) if he chooses to run for re-election later this year or not voting for the former president’s brother and former Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who’s running as the Joint Opposition candidate and was also accused of similar crimes as Silva.
Furthermore, the US is Sri Lanka’s top export destination, so the possibility also exists of America instrumentalizing this advantage to its political benefit through forthcoming sanctions if the decision isn’t reversed, which could cripple its economy and potentially provoke similar political consequences as the previously mentioned scenario of cutting off its promised grant. These economic means of coercion are intended to put pressure on the country’s “deep state” (military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies), specifically its military wing, into capitulating to the US and agreeing to a new SOFA for turning the island into the US’ “unsinkable aircraft carrier” in South Asia for “containing” China. It doesn’t matter that this scheme might even result in eventual violence in the country, as the US will do whatever it takes to achieve its strategic objectives.
There are four variables at play in the current situation, the first of which is whether the US will actually go through with its reported and speculative threats, respectively. Secondly, it remains to be seen if the government would bow to this pressure, and thirdly, whether or not a new SOFA is agreed to before the elections. Finally, everything might suddenly change depending on the outcome of this year’s elections, which is what the US is ultimately trying to influence in order to sustain its intended strategic gains in Sri Lanka. There’s nothing that ordinary folks can do when it comes to the first three variables, but the last one is purely in the hands of the people themselves, which is why a proactive awareness campaign about America’s agenda in the country could potentially go a long way towards thwarting its plans at the polls.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.