The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) expressed appreciation for the briefing provided by the Defense Attache (DATT) regarding the recent U.S. military survey of the Government of Sri Lanka's (GOSL) air defense capabilities.
110122,5/30/2007 9:34,07NEWDELHI2553,Embassy New Delhi,CONFIDENTIAL,07KOLKATA171,
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/30/2017 TAGS: PTER, PREL, PGOV, PHUM, CE, BM SUBJECT: GOI BRIEFED ON AIR DEFENSE CONSULTATIONS WITH SRI LANKA, DENIES LETHAL AID TO BURMA
REF: KOLKATA 171
Classified By: Political Counselor Ted Osius for reasons 1.4 (B and D )
1. (C) SUMMARY: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) expressed appreciation for the briefing provided by the Defense Attache (DATT) regarding the recent U.S. military survey of the Government of Sri Lanka's (GOSL) air defense capabilities. MEA requested the USG to apprise the GOI of radar equipment to be supplied as soon as possible. DATT stressed that the USG will continue to brief both the Integrated Defense Staff (IDS) and MEA in the spirit of transparency and emphasized that it was in the common interests of the GOI and USG to supply the GOSL with sufficient equipment to curb the LTTE's air threat.
2. (C) In response to Poloff's queries regarding the reported sale of lethal equipment to the Burmese junta and joint operations to exorcise Indian insurgent groups from Burma's border, Durai asserted that only infrastructure and non-lethal aid is being provided to the Burmese. Poloff reminded Durai that weapons supplied to the junta could end up being used against innocent Burmese civilians and requested close coordination with the USG on Burma issues. END SUMMARY
----- Transparency and open lines of communication stressed-----
3. (C) In a 25 May presentation to MEA Director (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Burma) Suchitra Durai concerning the USG military's recent survey of Sri Lankan air defense capabilities, the DATT noted that the assessment was undertaken at the request of GOSL President Rajapakse in the aftermath of LTTE air attacks on the Katunayake air base adjoining the GOSL's commercial airport outside of Colombo and subsequent attacks on the Muthurajawela and Kolonnawa oil facilities. He relayed that the eight-man team's mandate was to identify possible improvements to current GOSL air defense systems commensurate with the current and foreseeable capabilities of the GOSL air force and its budgetary realities. The DATT informed Durai that he has already briefed the Integrated Defense Staff's (IDS) Deputy Director for Protocol and Foreign Liaison Commodore Shawney regarding the survey. Durai asked if the USG had made a final determination of radar equipment to be provided and if the USG would share the outcome of the survey with the GOI. The DATT said that it was too early to predict the exact systems and installation timelines. Durai agreed with the DATT's assertion that it was in our common interest to provide the GOSL with adequate air defense capabilities and noted the GOI's appreciation for the USG's transparency.
----- GOI maintains that it provides only non-lethal aid to Burma -----
4. (C) Turning to Burma, Poloff asked for a readout on Indian Naval Chief Admiral Mehta's recent nine-day trip to Burma. Durai declared that it was part of an ongoing exchange that is natural between neighbors, ""especially since there are one million people of Indian origin residing in Burma."" She stated that the ""Burmese are actually taking action on GOI concerns, unlike the Bangladeshis who just talk and exchange papers."" She expressed satisfaction with the junta's actions against Indian insurgents to date. Poloff noted that numerous sources continued to report ongoing sales of military equipment including two additional BN2 ""Defender"" Islander aircraft (NOTE: Two were originally transferred to the junta in August 2006 against U.K. objections. END NOTE), T-55 tanks, 155 mm howitzers, radars, assault rifles and munitions and pondered if any weapons transactions were finalized during Admiral Mehta's visit. Durai denied that the GOI had sold any lethal equipment to the Burmese. She also dismissed press reports of joint operations to drive Indian insurgents from the border regions and indicated that the GOI continues to ""stress the importance of a credible
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National Convention in our bilateral interaction."" Poloff suggested that the GOI should consider that any arms transferred to the Burmese junta could be used against innocent civilians.
5. (C) COMMENT: Durai's hesitance to be forthcoming on Burma is consistent with the GOI's approach to discussing Burma with the USG for the past year. Post will continue to press the GOI for transparency on Burma and remind the GOI that Burma is not a reliable partner. END COMMENT.