Sri Lanka to buy China made JF-17 fighter aircraft, endangering reconciliation!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Of late, Sri Lankan president Sirisena has announced, apart from the reconciliation efforts with Tamils and other minorities in the island country, also a few other important decisions of his government. One is to make the country a big power which may be possible in the immediate future. Another, to fight corruption in the government and nation at large which is also not easy ambition considering that he really meant what he said.
One needs not elaborate on the issues because the issues are indeed tricky. Combating corruption no country has so far succeeded. Soviet Russia tried under Gorbachev and failed. Russia leader Puitn has tried and stopped even talking about the subject matter now. China is now seriously fighting corruption without resolving the real causes of corruption in a communist society. India also tried and made it even more rampant than ever before. PM Manmohan Singh accelerated corruption activities, letting every minister and official to make as much money as they can dung his tenure.
In terms of action taken by the government, the reconciliation effort has not yet begun in really earnestly as president Sirisena, playing a joint political game along with former president Rajapaksha who opposes any action against the war criminals, the government has so far made any effort to let the UN investigate and decide the issue of Lankan war criminals. Rajapaksha and allies are sure of their safety and on way movement for political power under the government of Sirisena who had been a minister in Rajapaksha government.
A recent report from Colombo reveals the SL government decision to construct ‘structures” in Mullaithivu. The report has alarmed Tamils in Tamil Nadu and leaders have expressed concerns about new hurdle in stabilizing the ailing Lankan-India relations.
About corruption also, the government just might at the most trouble a few individuals and forget about the corruption issue all together. It does not, however, mean corruption cannot be fought successfully. What is missing is the will and through plan for successful execution.
Of course, Sri Lanka is relatively a small country and the government can confidently launch anti-corruption program but only with dedicated, highly honest and sincere officals who can put people of nation above their personal or private affairs.
The issue of making Sri Lanka a strong nation in South Asia gradually is moot matter to consider. President Sirisena seem sot be very serious on the subject.
China and Pakistan are wheeling and dealing in a big way to influence the Lankan government to strike the deal.
According to reports, Sri Lankan government is getting ready to buy the JF-17 multi-role fighter jet in a deal which promises at least four million dollars per jet as kickbacks to those who are pushing for this sale.
According to a report in the Sri Lanka-based web sitewww.thesundayleader.lk, a former air force chief and a big business wheeler-dealer are attempting to influence the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) to acquire the multi-role JF-17 ‘Fierce Dragon’ fighter aircraft that has been jointly developed by both China and Pakistan, at a fair price comparable with international combat aircraft manufacturers.
India says the jet under consideration is highly-flawed, explaining that the JF-17 will cost the SLAF a staggering USD 29 million, while the same aircraft can be purchased from a reputed Russian manufacturer at a cost ranging between USD 20 and USD 25 million..
Regional super power India blames Pakistan for the poor quality of Pakistani-Chinese aircrafts because it wants to sell its own equipment to Sri Lanka and other regional nations, like Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh Maldives, etc. The Indian government is keen to offer the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-manufactured multi-role Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas’ to Colombo. New Delhi’s strategists argue that the Sri Lankan government has to take into account the security-related concerns of the island nation and Indian equipment is best suited to Lankan conditions.
The SLAF is keen to purchase eight new fighter aircraft and does want to spend time overhauling its existing fleet of planes at a prohibitive cost of about USD three million per aircraft. Reports suggest that with pressure mounting on Sri Lanka against Pakistani-Chinese aircrafts, new President Maithripala Sirisena has decided to put off the purchase of the JF-17 fighter aircraft from Pakistan and go for a viable deal with Russia instead.
According to sources, former Air Force Commander Air Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody had visited Pakistan many times to hold discussions with the Pakistani Air Force Chief for purchasing JF-17 aircraft. The present Air Force Commander Gagan Bulathsinhala too has made a few visits to Pakistan for the same reason. Air Marshal Weerakkody, who was later posted to Pakistan as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner, continued to discuss the JF-17 purchase with the Pakistani officials.
The source further says that both China and Pakistan are well aware that the JF-17 has no takers in the international air force circuit, but middlemen in these two countries appear determined to promote this aircraft and get a commission of more than USD four million per aircraft.
Recalled to Sri Lanka after the fall of the Rajapaksa regime, Weerakkody is still a frequent visitor to the SLAF headquarters to get this deal through.
According to Indian source, the JF-17 is an indigenous product and a country like Sri Lanka is not in a position to invest such a huge amount on jet fighters whose qualities are largely unknown. The source said that there is no doubt that the SLAF is in dire need to purchase combat aircrafts.
The air force had failed to get the required sanction for the purchase of the jet fighters during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, and added that whatever has been purchased so far has been through shady deals with and from disreputable companies.
According to media reports, the Cabinet last week took a decision to put off the purchase of the Sino-Pakistan JF-17 fighter jet aircraft indefinitely to prevent possible India’s ill-feelings towards Sri Lanka. The present commanders of the three defence services and a representative from Sri Lanka Logistics are currently in Russia to discuss the purchase of the aircraft for the SLAF. However, SLAF spokesman has said that the air force is carrying out a due diligence study of potential fighter aircraft suppliers in the event the SLAF need to add to their existing fleet.
The Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) presently has a fleet of Israeli Kfirs and Russian-made MiG-27s and India is eager to add its own make to the arsenals.
Unofficial sources have made it clear that the Sirisena government is all set to order for the JF-17 fighter aircraft by overlooking ‘friendly’ objections from New Delhi to the deal. Colombo is expected to take decisions about the procurement of military equipment in keeping with the actual requirements, cost effectiveness and reliability of the military goods.
However, the government must ensure that no corruption is involved by all concerned. Military corruption is common issue in India during the Manmohan and Modi era, through the defence minister denies any corruption in military procurements.
The decision of Sri Lanka to buy China made JF-17 fighter aircraft makes it amply clear that the government would use the new military might to caution, if not warn, against any Tamil demand for punishing the Singhalese war criminals. India has amassed huge terror arsenals after it invaded and occupied neighboring Jammu Kashmir and with the military might, including nukes, India thinks it needs not worry about surrendering the sovereignty to Kashmiris.
Possibly Indian military superiority in the region has emboldened Sri Lanka also to embark upon a large scale militarization and control Tamils and other minorities to ‘behave’ as expected by the majority Singhalese population.
If so, the military philosophy, however, would not work for the Lanka in the long run.