Sri Lanka balances Military Relations with China and USA

Shamindra Ferdinando, in The Island, 24 June 2015, where the title is “SL in simultaneous joint exercises with US SEALs and Chinese Army”

The Sri Lankan military is taking part in joint exercises with both US and Chinese armed forces, simultaneously. Authoritative military sources told The Island that the US had resumed joint naval exercises with the navy after a lapse of several years. The US suspended exercises during the previous administration. The US included Sri Lanka in a project called Extended Relations Programme (ERP) during then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s administration.

SLA and CHINA Operations

The exercise involving the elite Special Boat Squadron (SBS) and Fast Attack Craft (FAC) flotilla got underway on June 19 in the seas off Trincomalee. The FAC flotilla comprises primarily of Israeli-built craft as well as some acquired from the US. Navy headquarters confirmed the resumption of US-SL cooperation. The exercise will continue till July 2. The US Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Forces – commonly known as SEALs – are taking part in the exercise. The elite SEALS are experts in direct action warfare, special reconnaissance and counter terrorism. It was a SEAL team that took out elusive Al Qaeda Leader Osama Bin Laden hiding in a safe house at Abbottabad, Pakistan a few years ago.

A veteran said that the scope of the training exercises could expand though the on-going one wasn’t as large as the ones conducted during the conflict. The exercise had been marred by the death of a Sri Lankan sailor.

Meanwhile, an unprecedented joint exercise involving Special Forces, Commandos and Chinese troops commenced here on June 22. The 43-member Chinese group is led by Lieutenant Colonel Qi Qiang. Codenamed ‘Silk Route 2015’ it had been mooted during the previous administration in accordance with overall partnership between China and Sri Lanka. The exercise got underway at Officer Career Development Centre (OCDC) at Buttala with the participation of Major General Jagath Dias, Chief of Staff as the Chief Guest. Major General B.A Perera, Director General General Staff and Major General Mano Perera, Commander, Army Training Command were also present.

A senior military official told The Island that Silk Route 2015 would take place at Commando Regiment Training School, Uva-Kudaoya (June 22-28), at Commando Regimental Headquarters, Ganemulla and at Special Forces Training School at Maduruoya (July 5-July 13). The exercise was meant to enhance weapon handling, VVIP protection, live firing, lane firing, sniper firing, body protection drills, backup vehicle movement and training, body protection formation, ambush drills, reconnaissance techniques, skill firing, special mission planning, combat tracking techniques, situation training exercise, jungle warfare and basic battle skills, vehicle ambush drills, aircraft and building option training, etc.

The first phase of Silk Route was held in China (March 29-April 17) with the participation of 42 Commandos and Special Forces.

The SBS, Fast Attack Craft (FAC) flotilla, Commandos and Special Forces played crucial roles during the conflict.



70d--SBS 11

70a= SL_Navy_Inshore-Patrol-Craft_10

70c= SL_Navy_Inshore-Patrol-Craft_4

SEE Roberts, Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications 2014, for further details.

              ALSO NOTE

Malaka Chandradasa n.d.  “Learning from our enemies: Sri Lankan naval special warfare against sea Tigers,”

Sergei De Silva-Ranasinghe 2009 “Lessons in Maritime Counter-Insurgency,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, January 2010, 36: 50-53.

Jane’s Naval Intelligence 2009 “Sri Lanka learns to counter Sea Tigers’ Swarm Tactics,” March 2009, pp. 20-26.

Larry Pickering 2013  “The Osama Bin Laden Killing in Graphic Detail. An American Way of Telling,” 20 October 2013,

Roberts, Michael 2011 “Death and Eternal Life: Contrasting Sensibilities in the Face of Corpses,” 29 June 2011,

Roberts, Michael 2011 Obama and Osama triumph: A Win-Win Outcome,” 2 May 2011,

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