Sri Lanka Army

Defenders of the Nation

07th December 2018 09:49:39 Hours

Commander Speaks to DSCSC Graduates

Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, Commander of the Army this morning (6) visited the Defence Services Command and Staff College (DSCSC) – Batalanda and spoke to the student Officers of Tri Services in the Staff Course – 12 on ‘The Indo - Pacific: The Region of Global Connection’ as an academic input to their ongoing studies.

This formal annual visit of the Commander was made at the invitation of Major General Ruwan Kulathunga, Commandant DSCSC. The day’s Chief Guest was received by the DSCSC Deputy Commandant, Major General A. M. R Dharmasiri on arrival at the venue before he was ushered to the main auditorium.

Towards the end of the lecture (See below), the Commander interacted with undergraduates at the DSCSC and shared views with them. Most of the foreign students were keen on inquiring into matters of their concern during his stay there.

Before his departure, Lieutenant General Senanayake gifted a valuable set of books to the DSCSC library as incentives for their degree programmes.

Major General Ruwan Kulathunga, Commandant, appreciative of the Commander’s visit and his contribution to the forum presented a memento to the day’s Chief Guest.

Giving memories to his visit, Lieutenant General Senanayake left a couple of complimentary thoughts in the visitor’s book before his exit.

Here follows his full speech ;


“As the Commander of the Army, I am deeply delighted to be here to address future Generals, Marshals and Admirals who have successfully completed Defense Services Command and Staff Course-12 at this most prestigious and the highest seat of military education in Sri Lanka.

At the outset, let me begin by congratulating all the student officers for successfully completing this challenging and demanding course.

As many of you are aware, upon your graduation, you will take on heavier responsibilities and higher roles in your respective organizations.

I am confident that you will go beyond your duties for your organizations to achieve desired goals, as you have been equipped and prepared as graduates of this premier institution.

I would like to make a special remark of the Student Officers from our friendly foreign countries here today.

Gentlemen, your unique experiences and perspectives will definitely assist you to apply your hard-earned knowledge more realistically in your own contexts.

Furthermore, in your company, our student Officers learnt and practiced the art of working in a multi-cultural environment.

Your participation is important not only because of its academic value but also it is a reflection of the growing relationship between our Armed Forces and nations.

I am certain that the interpersonal relationships and family ties that you have developed here will last a lifetime.

With my years of experience here in DSCSC, there is a common phenomenon among the student’s community that, official address of the Service Commanders would help students to escape from more rigorous training sessions or avoid brief relief from Directing Staff’s so called “final mopping up”.

Perhaps, I would deviate from traditional method and take this fine opportunity to share my understanding on very pertinent current topic for all of you who are present here.

In this backdrop, I wish to share my views with you on “The Indo - Pacific: The Region of Global Connection”

Ladies and Gentlemen, as the global geo-political landscape is transforming into various dynamics, the Indo-pacific region has gained its lost glory over the recent geopolitical competition.

The term Indo-pacific has been in the mind of many policy makers and defense experts for decades due to the inherent importance of the region.

The increased interpretation of the term “Indo-Pacific” over the geographically more limited “Asia-Pacific” has extended its importance and interest into many connotations.

I believe nobody here needs to be reminded of the far-reaching strategic importance of the modified term of Indo-Pacific region.

Having this in mind, let me share my views under three pertinent questions:

a. What constitutes the term “Indo-Pacific”?

b. What are the dynamic interests of the “Indo- Pacific” today?

c. What are the shared challenges and opportunities in the region?


Ladies and Gentlemen, What constitutes the term Indo- Pacific? Is questions that have many answers.

It entails unprecedented Economic, Security and Diplomatic interpretations based on wider national interest of the many global and regional players.

The Indo-pacific has now become much contested topic in the current geo-strategic equations.

When we retrospect, the idea of Indo- Pacific has been there for ages in different terms.

However, the geographic interest and geo-political imaginations have dictated and remained persistent in all ages.

Traditionally, the Indian Ocean region and the Asia-Pacific region were treated as two separate entities which span over two regions of Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.

Now, there is an increasing tendency to consider these two areas as a single entity.

The term “Indo-Pacific” has recently gained wider official acceptance among many countries due to obvious fact of US President’s foreign policy interpretation and subsequent diplomatic engagements.

During his Asia tour in November 2017, the US President, Donald Trump often used the term “Indo-Asia Pacific,” and the US National Security Strategy (NSS) has also referred to the Indo-Pacific construct.

Further, even here in Australia, 2016 Defence White Paper has used the “Indo-pacific” terminology.

This term has gained wide currency in Japan, India, and in several Southeast Asian countries.

Thus, the confluence of two seas, as implied by the term “Indo-Pacific” has led to a greater degree of connectivity among many countries.

As per Australian Journal of International Affairs, the Indo-Pacific means recognizing that, the accelerating economic and security connections between the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean region are creating a single strategic system.

This strategic system can be understood as a set of geo-political power relationship among nations where major changes in one part of the system effects what happens in the other parts.

As you know, the region is the geographical connotation of the area which covers the Eastern Coast of Africa through Indian Ocean and Western Pacific Ocean.

The waters of the Indo-Pacific region represent the largest ocean and the third largest ocean in the world.

It is also home to sixty percent (60%) of the world’s population.

Connecting of these two oceans has not only emerged as geo-strategically and geo-economically important but also important in the field of defence and security.

The coastline of the Indian Ocean has a total length of 66,526 kilometers.

Further, Indo-Pacific sea region and littorals marked by a multiplicity of cultures, ethnicities, religions, economic models, megacities and governance structures.

Sea is the common link which binds the subsystem within the Indo-Pacific.


Ladies and Gentlemen, let me now come to the question of dynamic interest of the Indo-Pacific today?

As we all well aware, moving from Asia -pacific into Indo Pacific has rekindled the geo-strategic and geo-economic interest among many nations across the world.

The importance of Indo-Pacific term stems from ancient kingdoms to modern day ambitious seafaring nations.

This changing use of geographic terms has made many nations to revisit their competing and conflicting interests.

The Indo-Pacific Region can be considered as the Center of Gravity of many converging interests.

These converging interests transcends from Economic, geopolitical and security connection between Western Pacific and Indian Ocean region by making well connected theatre of interest.

The region is also heavily militarized which includes seven of the ten largest Armies and five of the world’s declared nuclear nations are also located in the Indo-Pacific region.

Importantly, the maritime powers alike, the United States, China, Japan, India, South Korea and Australia are also located in the region.

Indo-Pacific Region is home for three largest world economies.

Further, region is also home for approximately four billion of people who live under different socio-economic conditions over 36 countries which includes the most populous nation and the largest democratic nation.

The region is also being highly urbanized and consists of nine megacities out of 10 mega urban regions.

Thus, the region has become a good market place in terms of consumers and investments.

Majority of the region’s population boom will continue to occupy in major cities exacerbating demographic flow.

Further, technical innovation in the cyber and digital domains is driving towards faster connectivity bringing the region closer.

Region has also identified as the highest number of internet users and by making digitally connected Indo-Pacific.

Indo-Pacific region also acclaims as “engine of global growth” as world most important trade route lies on the waters of Indian Ocean.

As per the records, almost half of the world’s total annual seaborne trade volumes passed through the Indian Ocean, specially, goods manufactured in East Asia and destined for Europe pass through the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and enter the Suez Canal.

Oil supplies bound for China, India, Japan, South Korea and Southwest Asia move similarly.

It should be noted that, fifty percent (50%) of the World’s Container Traffic and seventy percent (70%) of the World’s Crude and Oil products transit through the Indian Ocean.

The Strait of Malacca which links the Indian and Pacific Oceans is the shortest sea route between the Middle East and growing Asian markets; notably China, Japan, South Korea, and the Pacific Rim countries.

Thus, several of the world’s top container ports, including Port Kelang in Malaysia, Singapore and Colombo port are located in the Indian Ocean.

As you all are well aware Sri Lanka is located at the heart of the Indian Ocean and at the midpoint of the main shipping lane that connects the East to the West.

The island is only 10 nautical miles off the world’s busiest shipping lane that connects the West to China and South East Asia.

Further, forty percent (40%) of the world’s offshore natural gas reserves are in the Indian Ocean littoral states and fifty five percent (55%) of known offshore world oil reserves are in the Indian Ocean.

It should also be noted that the continental shelves cover about four-point two percent (4.2%) of the total area of the Indian Ocean and contains abundance of mineral and natural resources. The region is rich in fish and Indian Ocean possesses some of the world’s largest fishing grounds, providing approximately fifteen percent (15%) of the total world’s fish catch.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), catches taken from the marine capture fisheries of the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific have increased from less than 20 million metric tons in 1970 to 46 million tons in 2012, over fifty seven percent (57%) of the world catch.

The existing and to be discovered aquatic resources will be a major factor in meeting future demand of food and natural recourses.

As you are aware, fisheries contribute most of the regional economies, especially, in the small island states.

Ladies and Gentleman, the region also has some countries that are governed through different political ideologies.

Countries that are faced with conflicts/ wars of different interest such as ethnic, religious, social and political could also be found in the region.

The development of trade and commerce and increased economic prosperity of regional players have made those countries potential powers those can influence the region and its security and or political destiny.

At large, the economic prosperity, technology and strategic competition has made Indo-Pacific a region that change the future of the world.

The Indo-Pacific region is also a witness to a multitude of regional organizations, multilateral structures, bilateral and multilateral arrangements.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations known as ASEAN,

he ASEAN Regional Forum known as ARF,

the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation known as APEC,

the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation known as BIMSTEC and

the South Asia Association of Regional Cooperation known as SAARC are some of them. This is also a region where we witness a great power competition.

The Chinese President Xi Jinping has proposed the “One Belt, One Road” initiative with the ambition of creating an interconnected and integrated Eurasian continent by way of linking 65 Asian, European and African countries. On the other hand, the United States, Australia, Japan, and India are cooperating with each other to face the challenge posed by China.


Let me also share with you some shared challenges and opportunities available to harness stability, peace, prosperity and inclusive growth by way of mutual collaboration.

As I deliberated earlier, Indo Pacific area remains “engine of global growth” and what matters here will directly affect for the global peace, security and development

Due to the inherent diversity of the region, it encompasses the fragile and uncertainty in many areas.

It evokes multiple strategic challenges in strategic, political and economic domains.

Much of challenges remains as non-traditional security threats.

However, nuclear deterrence and provocations among major powers have added much volatility into the challenges.

Let me now take up a few challenges very briefly.


Natural disasters can be considered as the main challenge as the Indo-Pacific region is deeply vulnerable to natural disasters: such as floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes, tidal surges, landslides and Tsunamis.

Nearly fifty percent of the world’s natural disasters occur in the region and sometimes called as “World’s Hazard Belt”.

What happens here affects nearly half of the world.

The diagram shows the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the Tsunami which considered as one of the world’s most disastrous natural event happened in the Indian Ocean which claimed about 200,000 lives.

Moreover, Thailand flood in 2011 which estimated damage of US$ 40 billion, 2014 India flood which estimated damage of US$ 16 billion and Nepal earthquake in 2015 which estimated damage of US$ 5.7 billion can be highlighted as some of the high magnitude disasters.

According to the United Nations figures, the region accounts for fifty seven percent (57%) of the global death toll from natural disasters since 1970 and assets worth of $ 1.3 trillion have been lost between 1970 and 2016.

Further, in 2016, 4,987 people died in the region due to disasters, the majority in floods (3,250) which hit Bangladesh, China, North Korea, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Storms accounted for 880 deaths and extreme temperature 336 as well.

In addition, significant climatic changes in the region, such as global warming, sea level rising, droughts and heat waves have also become critical climatic conditions which created many negative socioeconomic impacts.

Sea level rise has threatened the long-term sustainability of coastal communities and valuable ecosystems, and loss of millions of hectares of arable land.

The year 2015 has been reported as the hottest year which saw several intense heat waves striking India and Pakistan between May and June that resulted in 2,248 and 1,229 deaths, respectively.

The diagram on the screen shows the “World risk index” and as you can see the region is situated in very high, high and medium risk zones.


I would like to emphasize that drug trafficking is another key issue prevailing in the region and it was found that increasing of illicit drug production, trafficking and transit routes are in the region.

Some of the countries in the region produce opium, heroin and Cannabis production was found throughout most of the countries in the region.

Drug trafficking and transit routes of Asia and the Pacific were proliferating and dynamic.

Asia is being targeted by drug traffickers because of its economic growth and large youth population.

The Pacific is mainly known as a transshipment point for drugs entering other countries in the region.

As per United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC), $90 billion illegal economy in Asia comes from drugs.

The Pacific has also become as a ripe for drug trafficking and transit because most of the countries do not have capacity to patrol their boundaries or territories.

The impact on drug trafficking is greatly impact on the national security and Human security dimension.

Many countries are now fighting in its full potential to get away from this threat.

However due the well-connected nature of the trade many nations required collective effort to eradicate these threats before it become a detrimental threat to the well-being of the societies.

Let’s look at the screen. The diagram depicts some of the identified trafficking routes:


Coming on to the Arm Trafficking, Ladies and Gentleman, illegal firearms trafficking is another issue faced by the region.

The impacts of firearms trafficking in the region are wide-ranging.

This has affected not only regional security and law enforcement, but also impacted in the areas of human security, education, economic development, and public health.

Illicit arms, their parts and components, and ammunition have caused a breakdown of law and order in some countries and represent a great challenge to sustainable development in some parts of the region.

As most of you are aware the LTTE received weapons through weapon smugglers and extensively using traffickers.

Needless to say that, drug trafficking and illegal firearms have or share close linkage to terrorism, insurgencies and piracy activities directly or indirectly.


Sea piracy has also become an increasingly prominent issue in the region.

Anarchy on land created sea piracy especially, in the areas of horn of Africa and Southeast Asia.

Pirate attacks are not random and do not happen by chance.

Pirates use the latest technology to target highly valuable ships in highly trafficked waters.

The waters surrounding the Suez Canal and the Horn of Africa are traveled by many ships and are frequently attacked by the Somali pirates. According to the annual State of Piracy report released by One Earth Future’s (OEF) Oceans beyond Piracy program, there were 54 sea piracy incidents in 2017 around Gulf of Aden compared to 27 in 2016.

The attacks by pirates in the waters of the Southeast Asia stretching from the westernmost corner of Malaysia to the tip of Indonesia’s Bintan Island, the Malacca and Singapore have also been increasing year by year.

According to figures from the International Maritime Bureau of International Chamber of Commerce, there were 42 recorded attacks in 2009.

By 2013, it had climbed to 125.


Illegal Unreported and Unregulated fishing which is known as IUU fishing can also be considered as another issue of the Indo-Pacific region as this has caused rapid depletion of fish stock, owing to a combination of overfishing and illegal fishing.

As an example, ninety four percent (94%) of yellow-fin tuna have been overfished, and the hilsa catch also declined by ninety percent (90%) from year 2000 to 2015 around the Bay of Bengal sub-region.

The practice of IUU fishing has negatively impacted on inter-state relations where some of the countries had to deploy their costal guard and naval assets to prevent such practices.


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the region also has long-running territorial disputes.

The conflicts in the region can be classified according to the central issue that causes the conflict; the sources of incompatibility.

The seven primary sources of incompatibility which encompass the range of internal conflicts in the Indo-Pacific region:

colonial, ethnic, coup, ethno-national, political, religious, territorial.

When ethnic and religious conflicts are concerned, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines and Bangladesh experience different degrees of crisis based on various ethnicities and religions.

Rohingya crisis emerged in Myanmar in 2015 is one of the prominent crises in the Indo-Pacific region.

As per the records of United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) by 24th May 2018, there are an estimated 900,000 (+) refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and this crisis has become the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world.

South China territorial claims, issue of free of navigations and the conflict in Indonesia is also prominent in the region.


Let me now come to the issue of Illegal migration and Human smuggling within the Indo-Pacific region which has now turned into one of the key issues of the region.

As you are well aware, Indo-Pacific region hosts more than half of the world’s population who lives under different socio-economic circumstances.

Extreme poverty, discrimination and other socio-economic conditions are the main source of this issue.

The influx of irregular migration and smuggling have now reached to alarming level to the other regional countries as it has been directly influencing for the national security and stability of the hosting counties.

Some of these illegal migrations are supported by well-connected smugglers who are sponsored by transnational criminal syndicates.

The real issues of the illegal migration and human smuggling issues are becoming more complex in regional countries amidst very tight security and control measures.

Even though the root course of the issue remains domestic for the many countries it needs collective and long-term comprehensive mechanism to resolve this growing issue before it aggravated into another pressing issue.


The issue of terrorism is a vast subject that should discuss separately.

However, let me just mention that, the presence of transnational terrorist networks in the Indo-Pacific region is one of the most destabilizing factors we are facing today.

This is one of the negative aspects of global connectivity.

Terrorists are misusing all the avenues of connectivity, social media and other forms of technology to disrupt the world order.

Ladies and gentlemen, in terms of opportunities and prospects, Indo-Pacific region remains most potential region for collaboration and mutual inclusiveness.

No nation would be able to resolve future threats alone due to inherent complexity and trans-national connectivity.

This requires collective responses in order to harness enduring stability, peace and prosperity in the region.

Exploring common grounds through consultation, engagement, and building collaborative partnerships in diplomatic, economic and military domains are vital to convert challenges into opportunities.


In conclusion, it is a well-known factor that the Peace of the Sea depends on the stability, peace and prosperity of the land.

Even though there are many blues around Indo Pacific, people live on the land and many situations arise on the land itself.

Therefore, Land forces inevitably remain main effort of many situations.

Therefore, Land Forces in the region need to be prepared to address diversified threats in a joint and developing more collaborative partnerships with militaries around us.

May it be a traditional threat or non-traditional, symmetric or asymmetric; Land Forces should be prepared to deal with them on land effectively.

Today in the world, countries are no longer in isolation; what matters in a country will affect to the region and what matters in the region will surely affect for the global peace and security.

Therefore, cooperation and partnership are the key to mitigate them and to ensure peace, stability and propriety in our region.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to be in par with other regional armies we have taken number of steps to develop the Army into agile, modular and lethal force.

To meet up diversified threat and challenges Army is being employed based on 1/3 concept.

Which means 1/3 of the Army for Combat readiness, 1/3 is for nation building tasks and remaining 1/3 is to sustain the force.

As we have been acclaim as “Rata Rakina Jathiaya” we will ensure that hard earned peace prevailed.

That is all about my deliberation on

“The Indo - Pacific: The Region of Global Connection”.

Finally, as the commander of the Army let me express my greetings for your achievement of being qualified in this prestigious staff college.

Your graduation from DSCSC is certainly an achievement but it is not the extreme achievement that you can earn during your career. You should keep in your mind that due to the restructuring of the Army on its way forward to professionalism, there are many opportunities created in diversified fields.

Hence, I urge you to continue your studies in those selected fields to impart your valuable service for the betterment of the Army as professionals.

Last but not least, let me express my regards to all foreign student Officers.

Gentlemen, you are undoubtedly privileged to be a student Officer at DSCSC No 12 and to receive an excellent opportunity to develop your professional knowledge and understanding whilst sharing your knowledge in the context of multinational scope and gaining international exposure.

I extend my best wishes to the foreign military Officers here today, and hope that you have enjoyed your time very well in Sri Lanka with your family members and we earnestly looking forward to interact with you all in the future too.

Let me also place my appreciation to Commandant and faculty for the dedicated efforts extended throughout the year for enriching student’s knowledge, skills, attitudes and behavior for the best interest of the nation.

Let me once again wish all of you the very best for the forthcoming graduation of DSCSC.

May you all achieve intellectually rewarding career ahead. Thank you.”