This Article is From Apr 09, 2009

Lanka taking care of Tamils: Rajapaksa

Lanka taking care of Tamils: Rajapaksa
New Delhi: Sri Lanka on Sunday sought to allay India's concerns over safety of ethnic Tamil civilians in view of the military offensive against LTTE, insisting that their well-being was being taken care of and agreed to ",consult and cooperate", with New Delhi in addressing humanitarian issues.

India decided to send around 800 tons of relief material for the affected civilians in the north of Sri Lanka with Colombo promising to facilitate its delivery.

After talks between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's Special Adviser Basil Rajapaksa here, New Delhi also backed Colombo's ",resolve", to counter terrorism.

Basil Rajapaksa, who was sent here by the Sri Lankan President in view of concerns in India over the situation in the island nation, also met National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon besides Mukherjee.

He briefed the Indian authorities of the ",efforts by the Sri Lanka government to provide relief and ensure the welfare of the civilian population in the North,", said a joint statement issued after the meetings. ",He (Basil) assured that the safety and well-being of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka is being taken care of,", the statement said.

After being briefed by Basil of the situation, Mukherjee rushed to Chennai to apprise Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DNK president M Karunanidhi about the deliberations. DMK, a key constituent of ruling UPA, has been mounting pressure on the central government over the Sri Lankan Tamils issue and asked it to act to help stop military offensive against the LTTE.

",Every assurance we have given (to) look after the human behaviour needs and whichever way we can,", Basil, the brother of President Rajapaksa, told reporters after his meeting with Mukherjee. Asked about the medical aid from India, the Sri Lankan President's advisor said ",yes, that issue was brought up and we will take a positive look on it.",

He also said the Sri Lankan government would allow Indian medical aid. Asked whether Mukherjee will visit Colombo on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue, Basil said the issue was not discussed. The joint statement said India, as a gesture of goodwill, decided to send around 800 tonness of relief material to Sri Lanka for the affected civilians in the North.

",The government of Sri Lanka will facilitate the delivery.", ",India conveyed its concern at the humanitarian situation in the northern part of Sri Lanka, especially of the civilians and internally displaced persons caught in the hostilities and emphasised the need for unhindered essential relief supplies,", it said.

The two sides discussed the need to move towards a peacefully negotiated political settlement in the island including in the North, the joint statement said. During the meetings ",both sides agreed that terrorism should be countered with resolve,", the statement said.

This is significant as it reflects India's concurrence with Sri Lankan government's determination to continue military offensive against LTTE despite DMK demanding a halt to it. The Sri Lankan government has maintained that LTTE is a terrorist oufit which will have to be finished.

At the same time, Basil said the Rajapaksa government is ",firmly committed to a political process that would lead to a sustainable solution",.

The Indian side called for implementation of the 13th amendment and greater devolution of powers to provinces. Both sides emphasised the need for ",further nurturing", the democratic process in the eastern Province of Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa briefed the Indian side of the large development effort underway in the eastern Province, the joint statement said.
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