As the world watches without being able to bring about a ceasefire, a humanitarian crisis is underway in Sri Lanka with nearly 170,000 civilians displaced and 50,000 trapped in the war zone.
It has become common for rampaging armed forces and also those in cahoots with terrorists the world is battling with, despots and dictators to cock a snook at the UN. Much of the cockiness lies in the covert moral and logistic support lent by China, hungry for resources for widening its reach to get a major slice of business in the troubled regions and make its presence felt.
The Sri Lankan offensive against the LTTE is not faulted as the terrorist organization has used all possible means of violence over the years to foment terror in this beautiful island resembling a tear drop in the Indian Ocean. Lots of blood sweat and tears have flowed for the fight for a separate Tamil homeland in protest for the marginalization of the Sri Lankan Tamils. But the process of terror was always condemnable and has encouraged later day terror groups like the al Qaeda to emulate their suicide attack techniques.
But what happened so suddenly that the Sri Lankan armed forces finally managed to decimate the formidable LTTE?
It was China once again. Having supported despots with blood on their hands in Africa and Myanmar for the sake of resources to feed a surging Chinese economy, Sri Lanka was a natural choice to complete the string of pearls in the Indian Ocean.
Having set about building and ramping up ports in Burma, Bangladesh and Pakistan, which would in be used for docking and refuelling of its navy, China is now building a $1 billion port in the fishing village of Hambantota in Sri Lanka’s north east, very close to the fighting zone. It would also double up as the Chinese Navy’s stop-over point during patrols to guard against piracy of oil imports from the Middle East and establish a base in the Indian Ocean all along the arc.
No wonder the Sri Lankan armed forces are fighting perhaps their last battle to crush the LTTE for ever with an urgency never seen before. Shunned by governments the world over including India when Sri Lanka sought arms for the civil war, China chipped in during the last two decades with arms supplies. Chinese arms supplies increased further when the US suspended all military aid to Sri Lanka citing gross human rights violations. Chinese aid to Sri Lanka jumped to $1billion last year leaving other nations far behind.
Like wise, China beefed up the Myanmar armed forces and stood with them when they were accused of human rights violations last year when monks and civilians rose in protest against rampant corruption, price rise and food shortage. Pakistan can act in self denial of not harbouring terrorists and fuel terror acts in neighbouring countries on the strength of Chinese military aid and support while the US and western powers resign themselves to the reality and cannot do much about it.
According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, Sri Lanka shopped for $37.6 million worth of arms and supplies for its army and navy. China gave 6 F7 fighter jets for free in 2007 as per reports of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. According to media reports, the bulk of arm shipments fro China was handled by Lanka Logistics and Technologies where the Defence Secretary who is the Sri Lankan president’s brother, has a major stake.
And the arms went into killing 75 civilians in a makeshift hospital by the Sri Lankan armed forces which lay very close to the battle zone. It was the only one available for the trapped civilians.
UN reports peg civilian casualties at 6500 since January this year as the Sri Lankan government vehemently denies and keeps the war zone out of bounds for journalists and aid workers.
Sri Lanka is acting with the same nonchalance to global criticism and pressure as Myanmar’s armed forces did last year on the strength of a counter weight like China. Calls for evacuating the civilians have fallen on deaf years.
China’s desperate need for Hambantota had been cautioned by Pentagon’s Air Staff personnel Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher J. Pehrson in a 2006 paper and by the U.S. Joint Forces Command last November.
With a trail of blood from volatile Africa, Myanmar to Sri Lanka, China is a threat to global good and reticent about gross human rights violations and human catastrophes to preserve its own commercial interests.
US have also been accused of partying with despots and affecting civilian casualties, but democracy allows a groundswell of dissent as was evident in the last presidential elections. China has stifled a moral counterweight which makes it more dangerous.
The author is a Kolkata based independent journalist writes for various news outlets. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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