The ‘Defence Seminar’, a provenance of the Sri Lanka Army was devised as an annual international forum in 2011 with the aim of setting up a platform of rich intellectual interaction on intricacies of national, regional and international interest. Aspiring to muster wider identification, the Defence Seminar is renamed as ‘Colombo Defence Seminar’ with effect from the year 2016 on a proposal of the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Crishanthe De Silva. It will take place at BMICH during Sept 1 – 2.
The inaugural Press Conference to announce the conduct of the forthcoming 6th ‘Colombo Defence Seminar’ took place this morning (25) at the Sri Lanka Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (SLEME) auditorium, headed by Lieutenant General Crishanthe De Silva, Commander of the Army.
“This is an exercise to broaden the professional horizons of Army personnel who should closely be acquainted with fast changing global trends and other developments whether it is of military nature of otherwise. We will also focus our attention on other related issues, arising out of our main theme of the Seminar,” the Commander of the Army told the gathering.
Responding to the queries of Media personnel, the Commander said that the Army as any other country in the world is committed to maintaining security in the island and no Army camps in the north and east have been shut down as alleged in some media. “These reports are totally baseless,” the Commander quipped. He also elaborated on the arrangements in place as regards the sessions.
Press Conference was attended by Major General S Ranasinghe, Commander, SF (West), Major General N. J Walgama, Military Secretary, Major General K. J Alwis, Commandant, Army Training Command (ARTRAC), Major General B. A Perera, Director General General Staff, Major General Aruna Jayasekara, Director General Training and Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera, Director Media.
The inaugural seminar, organized by the Sri Lanka Army, started off with over 160 delegates from 60 nations in 2011. The sheer professionalism of the Army and its prowess in merging civil-military cooperation was reflected in organizing an international event of this magnitude, bringing a gathering of over 100 delegates from over 70 nations in 2015.
This year’s ‘Colombo Defence Seminar – 2016’ on the theme ‘Soft Power and its Influence on Global Issues’ will be conducted as a two-day seminar during September 1 – 2 to provide a platform to identify and discuss means of achieving foreign policy of Nation States. 125 foreign participants, representing 71 countries are among the 800 attendees, including Sri Lankan policy-makers, academics, researchers and scholars, invited to the sessions at the BMICH.
This year’s sessions, themed on ‘Soft Power and Its Influence on Global Issues’ are segmented into nine sessions under sub-themes such as ‘Concept of Power’, ‘Soft Power and Varied Impacts’, ‘Soft Power Peace Building and Armed Forces’ and‘Influence of Soft Power on Global Issues’. In addition, a separate expert panel, including professors, security and military experts and administrative officers at foreign and national level would contribute to the Day 2 session. A preparatory session for the participants has also been included in the agenda.
This year’s ‘Colombo Defence Seminar’, organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence is set to shed light on a wide spectrum of global and regional concerns and would mark a turning point in this sphere of global interest. Final arrangements of the Seminar are now underway under the supervision of the Commander of the Army and executed by a special committee, headed by the Directorate of Training at the Army Headquarters.
Eng. Karunasena Hettiarachchi, Secretary Defence and Lieutenant General Crishanthe De Silva, Commander of the Army are scheduled to deliver the keynote address and introductory remarks respectively during the inaugural sessions on the first day (Sept 1).
Mr. H. M. G. S Palihakkara, Former Foreign Secretary and Governor of the Northern Province, Prof. Adrian Kendry (UK), Former NATO Senior Defence Economist and Adviser to the 12th NATO Secretary General, Prof. Rasheed Uz Zaman (Bangladesh), Associate Professor – Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Dr. Sarala Fernando, Former Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Civil Representative of Constitutional Council (Sri Lanka) and Former Special Representative of the UN Secretary- General on Children and Armed Conflict, Dr. Christopher Ankersen (Italy), Chief Security and Safety Section Bangkok / Security Advisor, Thailand, United Nations Department of Safety and Security, Lady Olga Maitland, Former President of the Defence and Security Forum (UK), Lt Gen (Retd) Nasser Khan Janjua, NSA Government of Pakistan, Dr. Chuck Cushman (USA), Dean of Academics College of International Security Affairs, National Defence University, Dr. Philip Cunliffe (UK), Senior Lecturer in International Relations/ Rutherford College, University of Kent, Major General Greg Bilton, Deputy Commanding General (Australian Army) – US Army Pacific, Prof. Ram Malikkalingham, Board Member of the President’s Office of National Unity and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka, Dr. Derek Yuen (HKG), Professor Chinese University of Hong Kong, H.E. Mr. Yi Xianliang, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Rear Admiral D C Gunawardena, Air Commodore H M S K Kotakadeniya, Prof. Shyam Tekwani (Hawai) Associate Professor at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu, Major General A P de Z Wickramaratne, Dr. Harinda Vidanage: Director, Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS), Mr. Esala Weerakoon, Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs are among contributors to the sessions.
The ‘Colombo Defence Seminar’ is organised not only to share the valued experiences gained by the military, but also to seek avenues of contribution cum exposure to international community on matters, related to preserving national security. This pursuance has followed a trajectory of intellectual connectivity amongst those who seek strategic, sub-regional, regional, and global partnerships by inviting prominent national and international scholars and diplomats around this particular theme.
The world order, as presumed today, is characterized by the constantly evolving nature of military strength, economic power, social, cultural, political values and foreign policy of Nation States. In this context, the traditional approach to projecting ‘Hard Power’ is gradually being replaced by the use of ‘Soft Power’ in enhancing the State’s security and its forward march. This advancement acknowledges the need for peaceful co-existence, strengthening of diplomatic ties, sharing knowledge and expertise.
Moreover, it has led to a change in our approaches to world affairs whilst addressing respective geopolitical concerns. Soft Power, which is wielded by major powers in the world, has the capacity to reduce the need for arms and the number of physical conflicts in our contemporary times.
The successful outcome of the seminar hinges on the achievement of the aims and objectives which are of academic importance. Further, in this milieu the seminar will develop awareness of learning strategies on how to improve the soft elements of power in resolving critical issues at a time when ‘Hard Power’ seems an increasingly a less effective means of statecraft.
The effort has also accrued immense benefits to the Sri Lanka military as well as to the nation in numerous ways and has opened new avenues for close cooperation and sharing of knowledge on national security, regional stability and international security.
A forum of this nature would certainly create an analytical dialogue on the vital need for stretching the influence of a country through projecting its ‘Soft Power’ specially in this age of return to geopolitics, and create a distinct mode of legitimacy and acceptance that may not be possible otherwise.
Set against the backdrop of the splendour of the Indian Ocean, the Seminar will be hosted at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo (BMICH), Sri Lanka. The impeccable organizational skills of the Army, blended with the tropical hospitality of Galadari Hotel will guarantee a comfortable stay and an intellectual environment appropriate to the Seminar.