Authors: Senaratne, Bhagya1 & Nicklin, Germana2
Published in National Security Journal, 01 May 2022
Download full PDF version – Maritime Connections between New Zealand and Sri Lanka: Connected by Empire, Separated by Distance (1000 KB)
Smaller states do not receive the same attention as larger powers when discussing maritime security. Island-states are worthy of attention because of their sizeable, large maritime zones. New Zealand and Sri Lanka are such islands with significant maritime security interests and responsibilities, located adjacent to larger powers. They warrant an examination even though their geographical locations generate different maritime security dynamics and are vastly different in their land mass. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of literature pertaining to the bilateral relations. This highlights that there has been minimal emphasis on New Zealand-Sri Lanka bilateral relations even from an academic perspective. Therefore, we examine why New Zealand and Sri Lanka, which were intricately connected through the British Empire did not continue to maintain ties with one another, regardless of similarities between the two states. While distance and lack of awareness of the similarities have resulted in distanced relations, we argue that there is much to learn about smaller island-states from comparing our respective maritime interests.
Keywords: British Empire, Island-state, Maritime Security, Maritime Connections, New Zealand, Sri Lanka
The dynamics of maritime security for smaller island states in the Indo-Pacific region receive some academic attention but less than that given to those of larger powers.1 This could be because of geopolitical drivers that centre on military threats and capabilities.2 This limited attention to island-states misses their importance as stewards of their exceptionally large maritime zones, often rich in resources compared with their land mass. Maritime security interests for these states tend to be non-traditional, more focused on illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing (IUU), transnational crime, environmental degradation from pollution or overfishing and safety of life than on military engagement.
New Zealand and Sri Lanka are examples of island-states with significant maritime security interests and responsibilities, not the least of which is being close neighbours to the much larger powers of Australia and India, respectively. A comparison of these two states is therefore valuable for two reasons. First, their different geographical locations create different maritime security dynamics. One island is situated in the corner of the world, close to Antarctica and away from major shipping routes, whilst the other, is situated centrally in the Indian Ocean along global shipping routes. Second, even though the two islands are vastly different in size, they both have large maritime and search and rescue (SAR) zones, resulting in many similar issues compounding their maritime security.
There has been minimal emphasis on New Zealand-Sri Lanka bilateral relations even from an academic perspective.3 To fill this gap, this article examines why New Zealand and Sri Lanka, which were intricately connected through the British Empire have not maintained strong ties with one another, regardless of similarities between the two states. While distance and lack of awareness of the similarities have resulted in distanced relations, this article argues that there is much to learn about smaller island-states from comparing these two states’ respective maritime security interests. As such, it sets the scene for subsequent in-depth examination of particular aspects of those interests in the future.
The research is qualitative in nature with the two authors conducting desk research from their respective countries. Data was gathered from primary sources such as publications from the respective Navies, the agencies of Foreign Affairs, agencies of trade and commerce, Sri Lanka coast guard, parliamentary discussions, speeches, and United Nations data repositories. Secondary material such as reputed publications, journals and websites provided insight into the maritime security approaches of the two states.
Accordingly, this paper is divided into four main sections to examine the maritime connections between New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The first section provides insight into the common British connection, detailing the trade, military, and diplomatic links. Moreover, the section briefly touches upon the salient cultural features, as there is extraordinarily little literature that discusses the bilateral relations. This is followed by an overview of the maritime environments of the two island-states and their maritime security approaches. The penultimate section is an examination of the similarities and differences between the two states, such as from an economic and maritime security perspective. The fourth and closing section provides the conclusion and insight into avenues for future research.
1 Dr Bhagya Senaratne is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Strategic Studies, General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, Sri Lanka. Her research interests include Foreign Policy Studies, China Studies, Maritime Security, and Strategic Communication. Contact by email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Dr Germana Nicklin is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Defence and Security, Massey University, New Zealand. Her research interests include Border Studies, Maritime Security, Antarctica, Resource security, Policy narrative and Trans-Tasman relations. Contact by email G.Nicklin@massey.ac.nz.
The views expressed in this article are that of the authors and not reflective of any institution they are affiliated with.