Colombo and Washington had already concluded the acquisition and cross-service agreements in 2007 and renewed them in 2017. The agreement provided for joint military cooperation between the two countries and included logistical support, supplies, services and the use of airports and ports to deal with ”unforeseen circumstances.” While the 2007 version allowed U.S. military ships to dock on a ”single” base in Sri Lanka`s ports, the 2017 version appears to have extended the facility. (8) The Embassy proposes that U.S. contractors receive the same treatment as U.S. personnel with respect to work permits and driver`s licenses. Washington`s dependence on its energy imports from the Middle East has declined since then, but under the Trump administration, the need to balance and even counter China in the Indian Ocean has increased. Although its economy is now growing, Washington still wants to form some kind of alliance with regional democracies to support these efforts. Before such agreements are signed, the agreement should be submitted to Parliament and the Attorney General`s approval should be obtained, he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cancelled his planned visit to Sri Lanka during his trip to the Indo-Pacific region at the end of June, during which he visited three countries. The U.S. Embassy in Colombo said the refusal was due to ”inevitable scheduling conflicts” and that Minister Pompeo regretted not being able to travel to Colombo at this stage. At first glance, this was quite plausible – diplomatic visits around the world are often cancelled or rescheduled for many reasons – but rumours circulated in Colombo that Minister Pompeo would express his anger at not being able to formally conclude an agreement on the status of the armed forces (SoFA) with Colombo. ”The discussion policy agreement appears to be aimed at streamlining procedures for authorizing the U.S. military`s visit,” said Nilanthi Samaranayake, director of strategy and political analysis at CNA, a non-profit research organization in the Washington area. He said that he had only put in place the framework for US military operations and that he would not support any agreement threatening Sri Lanka`s sovereignty during the ongoing talks. In cases where they may be billed by the U.S. Department of Defense, the agreement requires that the fees be no more than what the Sri Lankan military pays. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who heads the right-wing National Party (UNP), which has a majority in Parliament, is responsible for renegotiating SOFA.
On July 10, Wickremesinghe told parliament that the proposed SOFA ”is not a military pact, but only an agreement that defines the rights and privileges enjoyed by the U.S. military if they were in the country,” according to Reuters. ”SOFA is a peace document,” he said. Mr Wickremesinghe assured Parliament that he would not support any agreement threatening Sri Lanka`s sovereignty. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have faced dilemmas since last year and their political differences have extended to security relations with the United States. (9) The Embassy proposes that U.S. personnel have freedom of movement and access and use of transportation, storage, training and other facilities that are required as part of the activities under this agreement. One of the clauses of the contract explicitly concerns the waiver of rules or conditions relating to the allocation of equipment, equipment and supplies for services, including constructions to be ”established and implemented in Sri Lanka”. National security should play a role in the candidates` election campaign. In fact, potential candidates and their parties are already expressing positions on CASA and SOFA, with respect to their voting base.