Mr Sagala Ratnayaka outlines key takeaways from CAS-2023
Addressing the Colombo Air Symposium-2023 (CAS), an annual international academic forum organized by the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) which commenced Oct(09), President’s Senior Advisor on National Security and Chief of Staff Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka delivering a significant address acknowledged the honour of participating in this event, highlighting that this is the sixth symposium of its kind organized by the Sri Lanka Air Force.
He reminisced about the first symposium which focused on “Nation Building through Maritime Air Security.” At that time, Sri Lanka had just emerged from a war situation and was dealing with airspace infringements.
The current symposium’s theme, “Fostering Shared Interests in the Indian Ocean Region,” reflects the transformation of the Indian Ocean from a mere maritime trade passage to a major global nexus of security, strategic, economic, environmental and social issues. This transformation has led to the increased presence and competition among major external powers in the region.
Mr. Ratnayaka emphasized the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean and its relevance to global powers, particularly the rivalry between the United States and China. He stressed the need for stability in the Indian Ocean, considering its paramount importance for India’s security environment and the U.S.’s support for India’s role as a net security provider.
He called for effective regional defence cooperation, highlighting the importance of a constructive dialogue among all stakeholders in the Indian Ocean region. Mr. Ratnayaka also noted the positive development of increased interest from European and Middle Eastern nations in the Indian Ocean but cautioned against escalating tensions among regional powers.
To ensure stability in the region, he suggested upholding lines of communication, adhering to multilaterally agreed rules based on UNCLOS, and utilizing multilateral and bilateral frameworks. He emphasized the challenge of moving from aspirations to effective action due to the absence of a region-wide security architecture and common regional identity.
Mr. Ratnayaka proposed that existing regional frameworks and initiatives, such as ASEAN’s outlook on the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean RIM Association, could serve as models for cooperation in the region. He mentioned the upcoming Indian Ocean RIM Association meeting, with Sri Lanka taking over the chairmanship, as a key topic for discussion.
The speech underscored the importance of keeping big power rivalries and external conflicts out of the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka’s neutral position, dating back to the United Nations General Assembly’s declaration in 1971, aims to maintain a conflict-free Indian Ocean.
Mr. Ratnayaka expressed gratitude for the Sri Lanka Air Force’s initiative in organizing the symposium and praised the importance of such forums for discussions on strengthening regional initiatives. He also acknowledged the advancements in air technology and the contributions of friendly nations, including India and the United States, to Sri Lanka’s role in the Indian Ocean.
In closing, Mr. Ratnayaka thanked all participants for their contributions to ensuring the safety and stability of the region, emphasizing the significance of these discussions for the Indian Ocean’s well-being.