Sri Lanka - Foreign Relations and Military

Foreign Relations and Military

Main articles: Foreign relations of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Armed Forces See also: South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and Non-Aligned Movement

Sri Lanka is a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It has cultivated relations with India while avoiding sacrificing independence. It became a member of the United Nations in 1955. Sri Lanka also is a member of the Commonwealth, the SAARC, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank and the Colombo Plan.

One of the two parties that have governed Sri Lanka since its independence, UNP, traditionally favours links with the West, while its left-leaning counterpart, SLFP favours links to the East. Sri Lankan Finance Minister J. R. Jayewardene, together with the then Australian Foreign Minister Sir Percy Spencer, proposed the Colombo Plan at Commonwealth Foreign Minister's Conference held in Colombo in 1950. Sri Lanka argued for a free Japan, while many countries were reluctant, at the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951, and refused to accept Japanese payment of reparations for that World War II damage because it would harm Japan's economy. Sri Lanka-China relations started as soon as the PRC was formed in 1949. Two countries signed an important Rice-Rubber Pact in 1952. Sri Lanka played a vital role in Asian–African Conference in 1955, which was an important step toward the crystallisation of the NAM. The Bandaranaike government of 1956 significantly changed the pro-western policies set by the previous UNP government. It recognised the new Cuba under Fidel Castro in 1959. Shortly after, Cuba's revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara paid a visit to Sri Lanka. The Sirima-Shastri Pact of 1964 and Sirima-Gandhi Pact of 1974 were signed between Sri Lankan and Indian leaders in an attempt to solve the long standing dispute over the status of plantation workers of Indian origin. In 1974, Kachchatheevu, a small island in Palk Strait was formally ceded to Sri Lanka. By this time, Sri Lanka was strongly involved in the NAM and Colombo held the fifth NAM summit of 1976. The relationship between Sri Lanka and India became tensed under the government of J. R. Jayawardene. As a result, India intervened in Sri Lankan Civil War and subsequently deployed the Indian Peace Keeping Force in 1987. In the present, Sri Lanka enjoys extensive relations with China, Russia and Pakistan.

The Sri Lanka Armed Forces, comprising the Sri Lanka Army, the Sri Lanka Navy and the Sri Lanka Air Force, comes under the purview of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The total strength of the three services is around 259,000 personnel, with nearly 36,000 reserves. Sri Lanka has not enforced military conscription. Paramilitary units include the Special Task Force, the Civil Security Force and the Sri Lanka Coast Guard

Since independence in 1948, the primary focus of the armed forces has been internal security, crushing three major insurgencies, two by Marxist militants of the JVP and a 30 year long conflict with the LTTE which has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by 32 countries. The armed forces has thereby expanded to its current size and are in a continuous mobilised state for the last 30 years. Marking a rare occurrence in modern military history, Sri Lankan military was able to bring a decisive end to the Sri Lankan Civil War in May 2009. Sri Lanka claimed itself the first country in the modern world to eradicate terrorism on its own soil. Sri Lankan Armed Forces have engaged in United Nations peacekeeping operations since the early 1960s. It has contributed with forces as permanent contingents deployed in several UN peacekeeping missions in Chad, Lebanon and Haiti.

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