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Posted: Sep 7, 2021
Vino Roy

The Institute for Security Governance (ISG) conducted a workshop in support of the newly established state partnership between the Montana National Guard (MTNG) and Sri Lanka at the Helena Armed Forces Reserve Center (HAFRC) at Helena, Montana from August 23-27, 2021.

The ISG Team brought together a diverse group of subject matter experts from academia, the US State Department, the Marine Corps University, the National Defense University, and USAID, with INDOPACOM and US Coast Guard District 13 participating virtually to dialogue with participants. The workshop aimed to enhance the MTNG’s understanding of the regional and socio-political context of South Asia, Sri Lanka, and Maldives, providing guidance on US and interagency priorities and establishing a framework for working with the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. This context then set the stage for a discussion of potential areas of cooperation with the delegation of Sri Lankan and Maldivian General Officers that joined on 25 August.

The Montana National Guard was selected to begin a new state partnership with Sri Lanka in 2020. The partnership brings together the country and state to interact on a broad range of cooperative engagements on various topics including homeland defense, disaster response, crisis management, and inter-agency cooperation. The Montana National Guard also maintains an existing state partnership with Kyrgyz Republic, which began in 1995.

The workshop panels covered a diverse array of topics presented by a distinguished and varied list of speakers. Major General John P. Hronek, State of Montana Adjutant General and Commander of the Montana National Guard, and Dr. Vino Roy, ISG State Partnership Program (SPP) Lead, provided opening remarks for the US-only session conducted 23-24 August. Ms. Laura Stone, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, provided a review of US policies and priorities for Sri Lanka and Maldives. LTC Travis Cox, US Embassy–Colombo, highlighted key areas of engagement with Sri Lanka and Maldives. Dr. Thomas A. Marks, National Defense University Distinguished Professor, and Mr. John Huggins, ISG Senior Adviser, discussed the traditional state-security interests that have shaped the regional architecture of South Asia, Sri Lanka, and Maldives. Mr. Matt Ashley, ISG Country Coordinator–Sri-Lanka, introduced participants to the institutional capacity building priorities for Sri-Lanka. Ms. Mackenzie Keller, USAID Office of South and Central Asian Affairs, and Dr. Matthew J. Kupchik, USAID Marine and Oceanographic Advisor, reviewed USAID lines of efforts in both countries; discussed the rising importance of environmental security; and how climate threats are shaping regional security cooperation across the region. Dr. S.I. Keethaponcalan, Chair of Salisbury University’s Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution Department, provided a broad overview of the political situation in Sri Lanka. Ms. Rebecca Wagner, Southeast Asia Deputy Division Chief, joined virtually and provided an overview of INDOPACOM priorities and major lines of effort/Special Security Cooperation Initiatives (SSCIs) with Sri Lanka and Maldives. Mr. Galen McAllister, MTNG Acting SPP Director, provided an overview of SPP Mission, authorities, and legislation. Dr. Jude Fernando, Clark University Associate Professor of International Development and Social Change, provided a cultural overview, and introduced the participants to a framework for forming international partnerships with Sri-Lankan counterparts. Dr.  Kirklin Bateman, Marine Corps University Chief Academic Officer Expeditionary Warfare School, provided an overview of the political situation in Maldives. The US Coast Guard District 13 provided a virtual overview of their capabilities as well as their educational efforts in Sri Lanka. Finally, Mr. John Huggins reviewed considerations for working with the MNDF.

A delegation of Sri Lankan and Maldivian General officers joined the workshop on 25 August. MG. Hronek, Rear Admiral Anura Ekanayake, Director General Sri Lanka Coast Guard, and Brigadier General Wais Waheed, Commandant of the Maldives Marine Corps, all provided opening comments. Maj. Gen. Randolph J. Staudenraus, National Guard Bureau Director, Strategy, Policy, Plans, and International Affairs (J-5), added his comments as well to the discussion. MG. Hronek and the Sri Lankan Armed Forces provided an overview of their capabilities, lines of effort, and challenges. This set the stage for the final panel on the impact of climate change, global warming, and rising sea levels on the community and economy of South Asia as well as the associated mitigation policies that have been adopted by Sri Lanka and Maldives. Dr. Matthew J. Kupchik provided context on the challenges of global warming and rising sea levels as an existential threat for the island nations, particularly Maldives. Finally, Mr. John Huggins reviewed challenges of illegal fisheries and maritime domain issues, and Mr. Ashley engaged the Maldivian and Sri Lankan Armed Forces on a discussion on their priorities and challenges.  

The workshop panels covered a diverse array of topics. This set the stage for the MTNG to leverage interagency relationships as they began to think through their SSCIs and potential areas of cooperation. The MTNG continued to dialogue on key areas of cooperation with their counterparts in bilateral sessions, which carried on to the 26 - 27 August 2021.

The Institute for Security Governance has been conducting orientations for newly established state partnerships each year since 2004, under the direction of the National Guard Bureau.