US ban on Sri Lanka’s army chief ‘complicates ties’

Chief of staff of Sri Lankan army Shavendra Silva attends a news conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Reuters/File)
Short Url
Updated 17 February 2020

US ban on Sri Lanka’s army chief ‘complicates ties’

  • The ban prohibits Silva and his family from traveling to the US

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that the US decision to ban the country’s top commander “unnecessarily” complicates ties between the two countries.

The statement was issued after Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena summoned US Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz to the ministry on Sunday and raised “strong objections” to the move.

The US government on Friday issued a travel ban on the army chief, Shavendra Silva, saying that there was “credible information of his involvement” in human rights violations during the final phase of the war. The ban prohibits Silva and his family from traveling to the US.

Sri Lanka has denounced the ban, and on Sunday Gunawardena reiterated that “there were no substantiated or proven allegations of human rights violations against him (Silva),” according to the statement.

He urged Washington to verify the authenticity of its sources and advised the State Department to reconsider its decision on the matter.

The minister said that Silva was appointed as commander of the army by the-then head of state, taking into account his seniority and that there were no substantiated or proven allegations of human rights violations against him. His elevation as the acting chief of defense staff by the current head of state, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was due to his seniority.

Ambassador Teplitz said that she would convey Colombo’s concerns to Washington and reiterated her country’s continued commitment to collaboration with Sri Lanka, including in the field of defense.

Sri Lanka’s armed forces crushed separatist rebels in 2009 in a no-holds barred offensive that ended a decades-long war that killed 100,000 people. 

There were mass atrocities against civilians in Sri Lanka’s predominantly Tamil north, with rights groups saying that about 40,000 ethnic Tamils were killed by government forces.

India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

Updated 28 May 2020

India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

  • Development follows US President’s mediation in the dispute
  • Stand-off began in the first week of May when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake

NEW DELHI: After weeks of a border stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, New Delhi on Thursday announced it would resolve the matter diplomatically.

“India is engaged with China to peacefully resolve the matter. At the same time we remain firm in our resolve to ensuring India’s sovereignty and national security,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The development follows US President Donald Trump’s mediation in the dispute. In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Trump said, “We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute.”

The stand-off began when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake in the first week of May. According to Indian reports, Chinese troops set up dozens of tents on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

A few days later, a Chinese patrol was stopped by Indian guards near the Nathula Pass in the Indian state of Sikkim. A troop build-up in the Ladakh and Sikkim areas followed the incidents. Reports suggested that 10,000 Chinese soldiers were sent to the border.

While New Delhi was still blaming China last week for “hindering” Indian patrols at the border, its Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that “the two sides have established mechanisms both at military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in border areas peacefully through dialogue and continue to remain engaged through these channels.”

Foreign policy experts say that in the absence of any concrete information it is difficult to comment on whether any resolution is actually taking place.

“The whole region of Ladakh is undefined, there is no agreed LAC, in some areas they respect each other’s position, and in some areas they don’t, which is the crux of the problem,” Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, told Arab News.

“Geopolitical interests of both countries are at the center of the conflict,” Kondapalli said, “For India Ladakh is linked to its sovereignty. India has so many ongoing projects in that area. For China its ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes not far away from the region and connect to the Gwadar port in Pakistan. Besides, once American troops leave Afghanistan and a new regime takes over Kabul this might have its implications in the region.”

Manoj Kewalramani, of the Bangalore-based think tank The Takshashila Institution, said that from a geopolitical perspective both sides need stability at this time and the current situation on the border is not helping either of them.

“Beijing is facing challenges on many fronts, an economic slowdown, tensions with the US, international anger amid the pandemic, protests in Hong Kong, etc.,” he said. “Likewise, New Delhi’s interests lie in managing the COVID-19 outbreak at home and focusing on reviving the economy.”