The Lanka Academic

JUNE 7, 2008 EST, USA
VOL. 9, NO. 63


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Headline Summary
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T  O  P      H  E  A  D  L  I  N  E
Sri Lanka's military says 52 suspects arrested in deadly bus blasts
Associated Press, June 7. COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lanka's military says 52 suspects have been arrested in connection with Friday's twin bus bombings that killed 23 passengers and wounded dozens.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara says that 51 suspected rebels were picked up around Moratuwa, the suburb of capital Colombo where a roadside bomb ripped through a bus, killing 21 passengers.

Another suspect was arrested in the hilly central district of Kandy, where a second blast tore through a bus, killing two passengers, he says.

Authorities blame ethnic Tamil rebels for the blasts. Sri Lanka's civil war has intensified recently as government troops try to oust the rebels from territory they hold in the north. The Tamil Tigers have responded by stepping up bombing attacks.Discuss this story
Published: Sat Jun 7 02:33:47 EDT 2008

India, China jostle for influence in Indian Ocean
Associated Press, Sat June 7, 2008 12:03 EDT . GAVIN RABINOWITZ - Associated Press Writer - HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka - (AP) This battered harbor town on Sri Lanka - 's southern tip, with its scrawny men selling even scrawnier fish, seems an unlikely focus for an emerging international competition over energy supply routes that fuel much of the global economy. China has given massive aid to Indian Ocean nations, signing friendship pacts, building ports in Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as Sri Lanka - , and reportedly setting up a listening post on one of Myanmar's islands near the strategic Strait of Malacca.

Now, India is trying to parry China's moves. It beat out China for a port project in Myanmar. And, flush with cash from its expanding economy, India is beefing up its military, with the expansion seemingly aimed at China. Washington and, to a lesser extent, Tokyo are encouraging India's role as a counterweight to growing Chinese power.

Among China's latest moves is the billion dollar port its engineers are building in Sri Lanka - , an island country just off India's southern coast.

The Chinese insist the Hambantota port is a purely commercial move, and by all appearances, it is. But some in India see ominous designs behind the project, while others in countries surrounding India like the idea. A 2004 Pentagon report called Beijing's effort to expand its presence in the region China's ``string of pearls.''

No one wants war, and relations between the two nations are now at their closest since a brief 1962 border war in which China quickly routed Indian forces. Last year, trade between India and China grew to $37 billion and their two armies conducted their first-ever joint military exercise.

Still, the Indians worry about China's growing influence.

``Each pearl in the string is a link in a chain of the Chinese maritime presence,'' India's navy chief, Adm. Sureesh Mehta, said in a speech in January, expressing concern that naval forces operating out of ports established by the Chinese could ``take control over the world energy jugular.''

``It is a pincer movement,'' said Rahul Bedi, a South Asia analyst with London-based Jane's Defense Weekly. ``That, together with the slap India got in 1962, keeps them awake at night.''

B. Raman, a hawkish, retired Indian intelligence official, expressed the fears of some Indians over the Chinese-built ports, saying he believes they'll be used as naval bases to control the area.

``We cannot take them at face value. We cannot assume their intentions are benign,'' said Raman.

But Zhao Gancheng, a South Asia expert at the Chinese government-backed Shanghai Institute for International Studies, says ports like Hambantota are strictly commercial ventures. And Sri Lanka - says the new port will be a windfall for its impoverished southern region.

With Sri Lanka - 's proximity to the shipping lane already making it a hub for transshipping containers between Europe and Asia, the new port will boost the country's annual cargo handling capacity from 6 million containers to some 23 million, said Priyath Wickrama, deputy director of the Sri Lankan Ports Authority.

Wickrama said a new facility was needed since the main port in the capital Colombo has no room to expand and Trincomalee port in the Northeast is caught in the middle of Sri Lanka - 's civil war. Hambantota also will have factories onsite producing cement and fertilizer for export, he said.

Meanwhile, India is clearly gearing its military expansion toward China rather than its longtime foe, and India has set up listening stations in Mozambique and Madagascar, in part to monitor Chinese movements, Bedi noted. It also has an air base in Kazakhstan and a space monitoring post in Mongolia both China's neighbors.

India has announced plans to have a fleet of aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines at sea in the next decade and recently tested nuclear-capable missiles that put China's major cities well in range. It is also reopening air force bases near the Chinese border.

Encouraging India's role as a counter to China, the U.S. has stepped up exercises with the Indian navy and last year sold it an American warship for the first time, the 17,000-ton amphibious transport dock USS Trenton. American defense contractors shut out from the lucrative Indian market during the long Cold War have been offering India's military everything from advanced fighter jets to anti-ship missiles.

``It is in our interest to develop this relationship,'' U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a visit to New Delhi in February. ``Just as it is in the Indians' interest.''

Officially, China says it's not worried about India's military buildup or its closer ties with the U.S. However, foreign analysts believe China is deeply concerned by the possibility of a U.S.-Indian military alliance.

Ian Storey of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore said China sent strong diplomatic messages expressing opposition to a massive naval exercise India held last year with the U.S., Japan, Singapore and Australia. And Bedi, the Jane's analyst, added ``those exercises rattled the Chinese.''

India's 2007 defense budget was about $21.7 billion, up 7.8 percent from 2006. China said its 2008 military budget would jump 17.6 percent to some $59 billion, following a similar increase last year. The U.S. estimates China's actual defense spending may be much higher.

Like India, China is focusing heavily on its navy, building an increasingly sophisticated submarine fleet that could eventually be one of the world's largest.

While analysts believe China's military buildup is mostly focused on preventing U.S. intervention in any conflict with Taiwan, India is still likely to persist in efforts to catch up as China expands its influence in what is essentially India's backyard. Meanwhile, Sri Lankans who have looked warily for centuries at vast India to the north welcome the Chinese investment in their country.

``Our lives are going to change,'' said 62-year-old Jayasena Senanayake, who has seen business grow at his roadside food stall since construction began on the nearby port. ``What China is doing for us is very good.''

Associated Press Writer Christopher Bodeen contributed to this report from Beijing.Discuss this story
Published: Sat Jun 7 13:00:02 EDT 2008 Back to the top

Thirteen Sri Lanka rebels killed, June 7. COLOMBO (AFP) Security forces in Sri Lanka killed at least 13 guerrillas in separate attacks in the north and bombed a rebel base, the military said Saturday. Air force fighter jets pounded a rebel base in Pooneryn late on Friday, hours after the guerrillas set off bombs in the southern suburb of Colombo and central district of Kandy, the defence ministry said. A crowded state-run bus travelling just south of Colombo was peppered with red-hot shrapnel from a roadside fragmentation mine, killing at least 21 people and injuring more than 50 others. More...
Published: Sat Jun 7 13:02:11 EDT 2008 Back to the top

Sri Lanka issues media guidelines
Hindu, June 7. COLOMBO: Amid growing concern in the media over what is perceived as high-handedness of the Defence Ministry towards journalists critical of the current war in the nation, the Sri Lanka Defence Ministry has formulated new guidelines for the media... Back to the top

Sri Lanka bus blasts kill at least 23
Associated Press, Fri June 6, 2008 09:45 EDT . BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Bombs ripped through two buses in Sri Lanka on Friday, including one packed with morning commuters near the country's heavily fortified capital, officials said... Back to the top

Tamils suspected in deadly bus bombings in Sri Lanka
Associated Press, Fri June 6, 2008 15:06 EDT . KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels blew up two passenger buses in Sri Lanka - on Friday, killing 23 people and raising the specter of an escalating cycle of attacks on civilian targets... Back to the top

Bus blast kills 21 in Sri Lankan capital
Associated Press, Fri June 6, 2008 00:01 EDT . COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A bomb ripped through a crowded passenger bus near Sri Lanka's capital during morning rush hour Friday, killing at least 21 people and wounding an additional 40, officials said... Back to the top

S.Lanka shares fall after deadly bombing in Colombo, Fri Jun 6, 2008 . COLOMBO, June 6 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares fell 0.67 percent on Friday, taking their losses for the week to 1.5 percent, after a deadly bombing in Colombo intensified concerns about the deteriorating security situation... Back to the top

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