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US change of heart towards Sri Lanka

world Updated: Dec 08, 2009 15:47 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

A New York Times report from New Delhi has triggered fresh ripples in the stormy political pool of Colombo. Ripples (as yet) because clammy Colombo is already a whirlpool of elections, defections and political slandering.

Quoting from a to-be-released Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, NYT said that US was to adopt a ``less confrontational approach’’ towards Sri Lanka.

“While humanitarian concerns remain important, U.S. policy towards SL cannot be dominated by a single agenda. It is not effective at delivering real reform, and it shortchanges U.S. geostrategic interests,’’ was one reason. The second: “SL is located at the nexus of crucial maritime trading routes in the Indian Ocean connecting Europe and the Middle East to China and the rest of Asia. The US, India, and China all share an interest in deterring terrorist activity… that could disrupt maritime trade.”

Recent examples of US’s ``confrontational approach’’ to Sri Lanka, and as pointed out by NYT, were when it ``abstained from a vote at the IMF in July to lend $2.6 billion to Sri Lanka’’ and curbed military aid because of concerns about human rights abuses. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s charge that rape was used as a weapon during the war against the Tigers was another example. The US also wanted to question general Sarath Fonseka about rights violations when he was in Oklahoma in October.

The timing of the NYT report was interesting as it was carried just before Robert Blake, assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asia and former ambassador to Colombo, arrived here -- highest-ranking US trip since the Tigers were defeated in May. This change of heart also comes as China bagged the biggest post-war reconstruction projects and India continues to pump in relief for the resettled Tamils.

The US too have been aiding SL in demining, funding developmental projects and even setting up an ice-cream plant. But the Senate report is likely to warm relations between the two countries more than any ice cream factory could ever do.