485. Telegram From the Embassy in Sri Lanka to the Department of State1

1637. Subj: GSL Attitudes Toward US Policy and Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. Ref: State 088475.2

1. S–Entire text.

2. Summary: In January, the GSL strongly opposed Soviet invasion and called for immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops. That policy has not changed but is coupled with careful guarding of non-aligned reputation. GSL’s attitude toward U.S. policies has been one of understanding and general agreement but no public support. GSL is unlikely to take initiative but probably prepared encourage and join with other efforts, particularly by any non-aligned states. End summary.

3. In January 3 statement, GSL strongly opposed interference by the Soviet Union or any other country in the internal affairs of non-aligned Afghanistan; supported the sovereign right of Afghans to determine their own destiny; said “outside interference or aggression cannot be condoned under any circumstances;” and called upon the “Soviet Union to withdraw its military contingent from the territory of Afghanistan immediately.”3

4. This remains GSL policy. The GSL reiterated it in the UNGA debate4 and took the Indians to task privately for being out of step with other regional and non-aligned countries and for not spearheading effort toward Soviet withdrawal. In February, President Jayewardene, [Page 1104] disturbed by invasion and frustrated by Indian attitudes, actively considered calling a conference of South and Southeast Asian states to foster a concerted appeal for Soviet withdrawal.5 He later backed off this idea, probably because soundings made him doubt successful outcome.

5. While understanding of U.S. reaction to Soviet invasion, GSL has not always been supportive, and has carefully guarded non-aligned reputation:

—They agree that pressure is needed but hesitate to join in Olympic boycott without widespread company.

—While greatly interested in the State of the Union offer of cooperation with South Asian states,6 GSL was quick to state publicly U.S. had not offered security cooperation and that Sri Lankan actions would be in keeping with non-alignment and the concept of Indian Ocean zone of peace.

GSL is not bothered by increased U.S. military presence in Indian Ocean,7 President Jayewardene privately welcomes ship visits as reminder of U.S. power to Soviets and India, and GSL is sympathetic to view that IOZP conference8 must consider land power in Indian Ocean; at same time, concern re non-aligned reputation led Foreign Minister to insist publicly that a) there no change in IOZP policies of GSL and b) first U.S. ship visit after Afghan invasion was strictly routine.

6. We expect no change in GSL policy to Afghanistan and believe Sri Lanka would like to help get Soviets out and mitigate other regional tensions which flow from invasion. However, given (a) Jayewardene focus on economic development; (b) Sri Lankan reluctance to differ sharply with India; (c) resignation to Soviet presence in Afghan among Foreign Ministry professionals and hesitant Foreign Minister, we do not foresee Sri Lankan initiatives. Do believe, however, Sri Lanka prepared encourage and probably join in efforts by other, more venturesome NAM states.

7. The GSL is unlikely to publicly support our policies. Possible initiatives or agreement with our policies always broached in confidence. This pattern is unlikely to change unless there is a more direct threat to Sri Lanka or an imminent, wider conflict.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800169–0829. Secret; Immediate; Exdis.
  2. Not found.
  3. Telegram 58 from Colombo, January 4, reported Sri Lanka’s January 3 statement on the Afghan crisis. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800009–0352)
  4. Reference is presumably to the debate during the Sixth Emergency Session of the United Nations General Assembly, which took place January 10–14. See footnote 5, Document 413.
  5. See Document 481.
  6. See Document 482.
  7. See Document 16.
  8. See footnote 3, Document 482.