Pathfinder National Security Strategy for Sri Lanka 2020



The Pathfinder National Security Strategy was developed in 2018 for the previous government. Then came Presidential elections in November 2019. This meant it was not a document incorporating the vision or mission of the new President though it was handed to the new President immediately after Presidential victory.  Given that Pathfinder Foundation operates and is linked to various think-tanks and entities in India, China and US what is its position vis a vis this trajectory and how does PF wish to position Sri Lanka with its proposal?


The Pathfinder founder Milinda Moragoda’s National Security Strategy for Sri Lanka is based on a ‘code of conduct for the Indian Ocean’ and raises the question – code & conduct for whom! Obviously this is linked to Pathfinder’s programs titled “Trincomalee Consultations-2018’ to promote Trincomalee port. What are the littoral countries in the Bay of Bengal that Pathfinder wishes to promote?


How did emerging security dynamics in the Indian Ocean Region in early 2019 become part of Pathfinders mandate? In April 2019 on Easter Sunday, Sri Lanka witnessed mass murder but the US envoy to Sri Lanka claimed the US had no intelligence on it despite India giving 97 intel warnings!


PF claims Sri Lanka needs a coherent national security strategy with a clear national security policy. Do we not have such?


PF claims its policy framework views national security from the perspective of the State & its citizens, taking to account traditional national security threats and new actors of international terrorism.


The most interesting aspect of this report is the statement given by the Pathfinder Chairman who says PF DOES NOT CONSIDER national security policies covering SURVIVAL OF HUMANITY and HUMAN SECURITY (food security, environment security)


In the context of covid-19 and the fact that Sri Lanka may have to re-draw all of its policies within this new health dynamic, completely negates Pathfinder’s policy strategy.


PF national security strategy is non-committed and excludes national security aspects that cover citizens and security of citizens vis a vis food and environment security. If so, on what basis can PF say that its national security strategy is from the perspective of the citizen if the citizen’s human survival, food and environment is not part of PF strategy?

How can “safety of citizens” exclude the all important aspect of human survival?

This conflicts with their later statement how to balance between military and defense based physical security of state and its citizens (Hard Security)and guaranteeing more general form of security that includes physical security of people and their safety and wellbeing, even at the expense of threats to state security and sovereignty (soft security)”.


Is Pathfinder laying blame for Sri Lanka’s economy on the high & increasing level of dependency among elderly population of Sri Lanka (are they not among this category themselves) More than 50% of covid-19 casualties in Europe are from nursing homes where elderly lived raising concerns of foul play. We cannot accept any proposition to raise the economy by eliminating the elderly!  We cannot forget – they too contributed to the country in their youth!


It is also regrettable that the local team has also described 1983 as ‘ethnic riots’ when it was a government organized attack and Sinhalese were protecting and keeping their Tamil friends and neighbors in their homes. The wrongful labelling of Sri Lanka’s conflict as ‘ethnic’ or ‘civil’ has no justifiable basis. Sri Lanka’s conflict was terrorist. LTTE terrorists killed even Tamils. Sri Lanka’s Armed Forces were fighting Terrorists and Separatists not Tamils. If Sri Lanka’s conflict was ethnic or civil why would over 5000 armed forces personnel lay down their lives to save 300,000 Tamils kept by LTTE as human shields and hostages?


Is the Pathfinder assuming that Sri Lanka’s past conflicts took place because it had not national security strategy? Based on this same logic and given that other countries like US, EU, UK have sound national security strategy, how can Pathfinder explain the numerous acts of terror happening inside their countries with some local acts far more gruesome than foreign terror attacks? (church shootings, mall shootings, school shootings etc are regular features) How have their national security apparatus handled ‘threats from within’.


Pathfinder explains that traditional national security was a nation state defending itself & the citizens through military means.


Pathfinder says that ‘soft security’ requires inclusion of a wider set of agencies and experts from political, economic, diplomatic. Is this another name or explanation for demilitarization and to hand over task of national security to others away from the military apparatus? Is this why Pathfinder is laying emphasis on the increasing role of NGOs which should really be named foreign government funded organizations and they are doing their utmost to erode nation-state sovereignty.


Can Pathfinder explain what it means by ‘blurring the very important distinction between national security and human security’?When a nation is given life by the existence of the People and the People’s security is founded in the nation – how can the two be considered separate?


Pathfinder says Sri Lanka faces 3 types of National Security Threats

  1. Geopolitical related external threats
  2. Internally generated threats rooted in socio-political & ethno-religious environment
  3. Threats related to globalization


In describing the 1stit is interesting that Pathfinder says ‘Sri Lanka is likely to be pressurized to conclude agreements with foreign countries to serve THEIR NATIONAL INTERESTS”.

Ironically, Pathfinders Economic Proposal to the GoSL in its Proposal 5 – recommends GoSL sign and implement the MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation compact agreement)

This completely nullifies the present document as an impartial proposal.


Having recommended Sri Lanka sign the MCC, the Pathfinder in its National Security Strategy says “Sri Lanka should consider developing a multi-directional foreign policyas has been practiced by Vietnam relying on ‘three no’s policy i.e., ‘no participation in military alliances, no foreign military bases on Vietnamese territory, and no reliance on one country to fight against another’.


Is this the reason for the trend to insert Sri Lanka would be ‘NEUTRAL”?

Switzerland is the country often mentioned for its position of ‘NEUTRALITY’ but Switzerland joins EU in voting against Sri Lanka at UNHRC and has shown no reason for anyone to consider Switzerland anything but neutral in its diplomatic affairs.

To be “Neutral” is like watching a woman being raped and refusing to assist or save her simply because one’s policy says “I will not take anyone’s side”.


A country in a position of power can make very condescending statements of being ‘Neutral’ (but actually be not) but can a developing country, up to its neck in debt do so, when it is our improved relations and mutual exchanges of good will diplomacy that promotes countries to assist us?


No one can deny that it is after signing the non-aligned charter and becoming a member, that Sri Lanka was able to make a mark internationally.To this day, it is that non-aligned seal of relations that continue to sustain relations with other nations of the world gaining respect as a non-aligned nation. Sri Lanka as a nation that wears the cap of ‘NEUTRALITY’ is self-isolating itself from the rest of the world and the non-aligned nations that historically Sri Lanka has long relations with.


Is the actual game-plan to make Sri Lanka self-isolate itself and in so doing lose the traditional friends it had?

Isn’t this part of military strategy where the enemy is isolated from all defenses making the attack all the greater and gruesome with no help from anyone.


Sri Lanka’s leaders must not fall for this trap of neutrality– Sri Lanka must remain non-aligned by word and continue its relations with the bloc of non-aligned nation.


Pathfinder national security strategy should have provided solutions to the illegal fishing by India on Sri Lanka’s territorial waters instead of simply saying ‘both countries should address this long-standing issue’. The document is mostly of what everyone already knows and has nothing innovative for Sri Lanka to follow.


Pathfinder mentions that the separatist conflict in north and east as well as the 2 youth rebellions in the South and the Easter Sunday threatened the economy and security of citizens and that the separatist conflict and the Easter Sunday attacks is linked to transnational threats to Sri Lanka’s security. Yes, but it is only diplomatically and via government that Sri Lanka can deal with countries that continue to harbor LTTE diaspora inspite of their countries banning them.


The country was caught unprepared not for any reason but for inefficiency, incompetency of the people wrongly appointed for these roles and blame lies nowhere else but in the leadership of the past government.There was enough intel within the country and there was more than enough intel from foreign sources to have prevented the attack. To ensure future crisis does not arise means to ensure the most suitable persons are given the roles.


Sovereign states cannot unilaterally solve problems, that is why Sri Lanka needs to continue to maintain good diplomatic relations. Claiming to be neutral is not going to land Sri Lanka with any help from anyone or any country when in need!

In the event of trade sanctions or even a natural disaster/calamity etc if Sri Lanka continues with its ‘NEUTRAL’ song would any friendly country even come to our assistance?


We do not need to tell Pathfinder who are the main source of illegal international drug trafficking and how they operate and why the world will never see an end to international narcotics trade or smuggling except for countries to secure their borders. Again with human smuggling too, countries that claim to champion it have allowed Sri Lanka’s terrorists to flee and operate from their land. When such duplicities and hypocrisies prevail what can a country do but to adjust and find ways to mitigate the situation!


A well-coordinated intelligence apparatus can quickly ascertain where trouble-makers are looming and nip the situation in the bud before it spreads like a cancer, is the lesson Sri Lanka has to take from all of its past conflicts. Not taking action when Sri Lanka should have, is the mistake Sri Lanka made and as a result, suffered consequences.

That Sri Lanka was stopped from taking action must also be mentioned via bogus ceasefire agreements (to which the Foundations’ founder was also party) was only meant to provide the enemy time to regroup and return with venom.


Sri Lanka’s national strategy following the path of curbing terror and trouble-makers while another country’s national strategy of encouraging or using terror and funding trouble-makers is the situation all countries facing conflicts suffer from. No strategy can solve this in a piece of paper or a proposal.


Let it not be forgotten, that presumably without a ‘national security strategy’ Sri Lanka defeated the most ruthless terrorist organization linked to foreign countries and indigenously carried out a rehabilitation, resettlement and reintegration program to success. Countries with near-perfect national security strategies are continuing to fight terror with no success in sight.


With Pathfinders emphasis on formulation of ‘Expert Committees’ within the National Security Secretariat, is Pathfinder attempting to secure a place within this apparatus?


Pathfinder makes reference to the 3 main players in Asia. The three may regard each other as a risk to themselves but that does not necessarily mirror Sri Lanka’s opinion. Just because India or US regard China as a threat or China regards India & US as a threat – Sri Lanka does not need to take the same position as either bloc. Sri Lanka has relations with the 3 for Sri Lanka’s own interests and they have relations with Sri Lanka for their own interests.If there is rivalry between China-US-India it is between them and Sri Lanka should not get involved but have relations with each based on Sri Lanka’s interests only.


During Indo-Pak war and Pakistan requested to refuel in Sri Lanka, India objected but Mrs. Bandaranaike firmly stated her stand and to this day both countries respect her for her stand. This was diplomacy at its best.


Pathfinder recommends Sri Lanka follow Vietnam’s 3 no policies – no participation in military alliances, no foreign military bases on Vietnamese territory and no reliance on one country to fight against another’. But the loophole is that the ‘No’ allows defense cooperation – so what’s the big deal in the ‘No’s’.

RAND Cooperation says “as long as characterizations of military exchanges remain vaguer, Vietnam is likely to be willing to engage more extensively’.

So what does Pathfinder recommend that Sri Lanka keep its terms vague with room to do exactly what Sri Lanka claims it will not?


Let us note that Vietnam has given China ‘comprehensive strategic cooperative’ status,

Japan is Vietnam’s ‘extensive strategic partner’ 2014 (more than strategic but not yet comprehensive)

Australia was Vietnam’s ‘higher defense level strategic partner’ (2013)

US is Vietnam’s ‘strategic partner’.


All these partnerships remain, though Vietnam says ‘no military alliances’.

So who are we fooling with the thesaurus.

Vietnam’s liberalizations (advantageous to transnational corporates) are drummed by Western entities as a success story to its development which hides the impacts to the Vietnamese whose status of life hasn’t improved though country statistics has!


The Pathfinder National Security Strategy team comprises Chairman Bernard Goonetilleke, Lalith Weeratunga (former Secretary to the President), H M G S Palihakkara (Former Foreign Secretary), Roshan Goonetilleka (Former Air Force Commander & present Governor Western Province), former Commander of Sri Lanka Navy & Director of Pathfinder Foundation Admiral Jayanath Colombage, Former Commander of Army General Daya Ratnayake, Executive Director of Pathfinder Foundation Luxman Siriwardena. Dr Sisira Pinnawala who developed the theoretical framework.


Pathfinder recommends Sri Lanka does not say what Sri Lanka will do and keep terms vague.

The most shocking aspect of Pathfinders proposed national security strategy is its omission of the survival of humanity and human security concerns (food security, environment security etc)



Shenali D Waduge

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