In today’s complex and dynamic threat environment, military leaders must effectively employ limited resources to execute their country’s national security strategy. Proceedings asked sea-service commanders around the world: It is often said that a nation’s national defense decisions are ultimately derived from its own sovereign interests. Given this presumption, what are the global trends that most influence your national security decision making and how does your navy use its operating policies, alliances, and partnerships to address these trends?
Rear Admiral Jayanath Colombage
Sri Lanka is in a maritime renaissance today. The vision statement of His Excellency the President has set its sight on transforming the island nation as a “Wonder of Asia” through five hubs: maritime, knowledge, commercial, aviation, and power/energy. After successfully eradicating the menace of terrorism in May 2009, the island nation is surging ahead in infrastructure development in a quest to compete with global opportunities.
The navy is setting its sights beyond the horizon and looking at the exclusive economic zone, security-sector reform, and obligations under local and international regulations, conventions, and practices. With sea lines of communications (SLOC) to countries with the world’s second and third best GDP rankings, the maritime opportunities are immense. Hence, securing the sea for freedom of navigation has become a priority. To accomplish this, the Sri Lanka Navy has planned to strengthen the fleet of vessels for EEZ operations. Alliances assisted in achieving just that with brand new offshore patrol vessels being constructed in a friendly neighborhood, and with another two EEZ-capable vessels being offered by a friendly regional naval power. With these additions the future looks promising and inviting.
In response to the threat of piracy, especially in the Horn of Africa, many private maritime-security companies (PMSC) started employing armed guards on board merchant vessels. Noticing this trend, a private public partnership (PPP) was formed with one such PMSC by the Ministry of Defence of Sri Lanka in which the Sri Lanka Navy was also a partner. This PPP has benefitted the navy as well as generated foreign exchange.
The annual maritime conference, “Galle Dialogue,” is another indicator of growing partnerships, and the forum makes available a forum to express views and exchange dialogue. Last year’s event, annually conducted in historic port city of Galle, saw 35 foreign countries participate and was held under the theme “Emerging Maritime Trends in the Indian Ocean.”
The Indian Ocean has been identified as the most significant body of water in the 21st century. Being situated at a center position of the ocean, with almost equal distances to Bab-El-Mandeb and the Strait of Malacca, where SLOCs keep the world’s economies running, Sri Lanka has come out of shackles to play its part in the 21st century. The Sri Lanka Navy is destined and honored to lead this maritime renaissance.