On the sidelines of the 2004 tsunami devastation, "There has been much discussion about how to ensure that we use our military participation in relief efforts to strengthen our mil-to-mil relationships with other participants, and in particular with India," begins a cable.
24950 1/5/2005 12:03 05 COLOMBO 35 Embassy Colombo CONFIDENTIAL "This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available." "C O N F I D E N T I A L COLOMBO 000035
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/05/2015 TAGS: MARR, PREL, CE, IN, Tsunami, External Relations
SUBJECT: MILITARY COOPERATION IN THE RELIEF EFFORT IN SRI LANKA
Classified By: Ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead. Reason: 1.4 (B, D).
1. (C) There has been much discussion about how to ensure that we use our military participation in relief efforts to strengthen our mil-to-mil relationships with other participants, and in particular with India. We offer here a perspective on what is happening on the ground in Sri Lanka. A coordination mechanism for all foreign militaries working on relief here has been in place since Saturday. This was a US initiative, and the group was convened by our DATT. This takes the form of a daily coordination meeting among the DATT's/other reps of all countries with military assistance efforts here. The Indians enthusiastically participate in this meeting. We are also inviting India and other countries, as well as Sri Lanka, to send Liaison Officers to sit with our Command Center.
2. (C) In dealing with this issue, we must remain aware of Sri Lanka sensitivities. When I told the Foreign Secretary that we intended to send military forces to assist in the relief effort, one of his first questions was: ""This is not part of the Core Group, is it?"" What he was really saying was that he did not want this to be some sort of Indo-US condominium. I assured him that we coordinate with the Indians, but that they were separate efforts.
3. (C) On the ground here, while we have excellent relationships with the Indians, they are also very careful to assert their own independence. The High Commissioner has made it plain that on the civilian side, she is ready to share information, but does not want any greater cooperation/coordination than that. When a number of bilateral donors formed a coordination group and nominated one member to be their liaison with the GSL, she emphatically stated that ""Indian will not let anyone represent us.""
4. (C) It has been an extremely arduous task to get our own military relief effort up and running. We have now agreed with the GSL on how to proceed, where to put our troops and their equipment, etc. So we are almost there and will be able to move forward quickly as soon as the ESG gets here. We have excellent communication and coordination with the Indians and other countries with military forces here. Attempts to turn this into some sort of joint (as opposed to cooperative) effort would mean starting all over again. And I do not know if the GSL would think favorably of that concept.
5. (C) The bottom line is: things are working well here. We and the Indians are good buddies and share all information. Our mil program is about to get off the ground. Let's not try to fix something that is not broken.