Here’s something for pundits of US-China military rivalry to think about: The US giant General Electric, one of the aviation industry’s biggest suppliers of jet engines and airplane technology, is to share its most sophisticated airplane electronics with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). State-owned AVIC also supplies China's military with aircraft and weapons systems. Avionics are the electronic and computer systems that control an airplane and determine its capabilities. The Chinese government insists Western companies operating there should be “willing to share technology and know-how.” However, the G.E.-AVIC avionics joint venture, analysts say, appears to be the deepest relationship yet and involves sharing the most confidential technology . See reports by the New York Times (NYT) and Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The deal will help China's manufacturers eventually compete with the US aircraft industry, which is one of America's strongest manufacturing sectors, as well as the European one.
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao at their bilateral meeting last month in Seoul before the G20 summit . Photo Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images It has become routine in much analysis of international affairs to position China as an opponent of the West (i.e. not just a competitor), and as prioritizing state sovereignty and non-interference in a state’s internal affairs above other international principles. The one is also often suggested as the explanation for the other. However, China’s changing role in Sudan over the past two decades demonstrates that neither can be taken as a given.
The wave of terror in Jaffna by Sri Lanka Army-backed paramilitaries serves to undermine planned international efforts to restore normalcy in the peninsula.
Sri Lanka Army soldier in Jaffna, where government-backed paramilitaries have in recent weeks escalated a campaign of killings and disappearances (file image). Photo Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/GettyImages
The all-pervasive climate of terror being engineered in the Jaffna peninsula is intended to stifle the revival of Tamil political and economic activity there. The brutal killings, abductions, ‘disappearances’ and intimidation are not random or manifestations of ‘lawlessness’, but a deliberate campaign of targeted violence with specific political and economic goals.
The doubling of Sri Lanka’s main stock market index in 2010 has led to some effusive news reports, most recently in The Guardian . Inevitably, these reports have been lauded in Sri Lanka’s state-owned press, alongside its own hype. But, as other recent analysis shows, these reports make two mistaken assumptions :  that the index’s rise is entirely due to fundamental improvement in the stocks, and  that the market is indicative of the wider economy’s progress. Firstly, the index has been driven up by Sri Lankan government buying , while foreigners are exiting . Secondly, the Colombo bourse is unrepresentative of the wider economy. This is what the Sri Lankan Sunday Times’ economic column warned last October about the mistaken presumption: “There is little doubt that the recent [stock] market performance is not directly related to either economic performance or market fundamentals. It has been guided by market sentiments, speculation and government intervention .” See also this discussion in October by LBO of over-valuation and government buying. In fact, international equity investors’ wariness of the Sri Lankan market is underlined by one detail: Foreigners have been net sellers in 2010 and 2009 – after having been net buyers since 2001 (See Reuters’ reports in Dec and Feb 2010). 2010 saw a net foreign outflow of US$240m (Rs 26.4bn), more than twice 2009’s outflow of US$103m (Rs 11.4bn).
When ratings agencies upgraded Sri Lanka’s debt rating – to still well below ‘investment-grade’- late last year they added a warning : the government needs to demonstrate a commitment to fiscal discipline and cutting its deficit to keep these ratings. However, despite solemn promises – including those in the November budget – of economic reforms, the Sinhala-nationalist government is unwilling to abandon the populist measures on which both its electoral support and its ethnicised vision of the economy rest.
Houses in Mullaitivu town destroyed in Sri Lankan military bombardment which killed 40,000 Tamil civilians in early 2009. Almost two years later, the government is blocking reconstruction and development. Photo GettyImages
The categories of war crimes for which Sri Lanka’s top civilian and military leadership are responsible expanded this week to include rape , forced prostitution and trafficking into sexual slavery , based on a Wikileaked US embassy cable of May 18, 2007. (See the full text of the cable here , and a summary of the sex-related crimes it outlines here .) Tamil paramilitaries ran prostitution rings for Sri Lankan troops in government-controlled parts of the Northeast, and child sex trafficking rings using their networks in India and Malaysia, and they did so with the knowledge and support of the Sri Lankan government , the US cable revealed. Article 7, para (g), of the Rome Statute lists “rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity" as crimes against humanity "when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population." The US cable leak comes on the tenth anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 , which specifically addresses the impact of conflict, particularly sexual violence, on women and girls. The below report looks at the international legal context of the sexual crimes described in the US cable, Colombo's response, and some of the past documentation of rape by the Sri Lanka's armed forces.
A secret US embassy cable Wikileaked Thursday outlines in detail how the US was well aware in 2007 of the extent of Sri Lanka’s active use of Tamil paramilitaries as an integral part of its war against the LTTE. Sri Lanka funded paramilitaries directly, then allowed them to extort funds, loot supplies for internally displaced Tamils, and run forced prostitution rings using girls and women from the refugee camps. However, Tamil voices who argued a t the time that the soaring killings, extortion and crime were linked directly to Sri Lanka's paramilitary-led war against the LTTE were largely ignored. For example, compare what one of our columnists wrote on the subject in January 2008, with the US cable of May 2007: