India opposes NE de-merger, wants truce, talks - report

[TamilNet, Monday, 18 September 2006, 21:21 GMT]
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday told Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse that only negotiations can resolve the island dragging ethnic conflict. “A political, and not military, solution is what Sri Lanka should aim at - this was India's message,” IANS reported from the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Cuba. The Indian leadership had also pressed that the island's Tamil-majority Northeastern province should not be de-merged without a referendum and that such a referendum would only be possible when there was a 'conducive atmosphere,' IANS reported.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
At their meeting on the sidelines of the NAM summit in Havana Saturday, Manmohan Singh emphasised the need for a negotiated settlement while firmly ruling out war as an option.

The Indian leader also underlined to his Sri Lankan counterpart the necessity to take into consideration the aspirations of the Tamil minority while convincing the Sinhalese majority to go for political concessions.

According to information made available to IANS, Manmohan Singh and Rajapakse had “cordial discussions” during which they touched upon at some length the crisis in Sri Lanka as well as international efforts to resolve it.

“India is very clear that whatever the immediate exigencies, Sri Lanka should aspire in the long run for a negotiated end to the armed conflict that has pitted it against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),” IANS reported.

The two delegations agreed that the LTTE was a 'dangerous organisation', but New Delhi's belief is that this should not come in the way of talking to the Tigers, the agency said.

The merger of the northeast is an emotive issue with the Tamil people.

Sri Lanka's overwhelmingly Tamil-majority north and multi-racial east were joined by the 1987 India-Sri Lanka peace accord to form a single administrative unit.

Key allies of President Rajapakse, in particular the ultra-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) are now insisting that they should be de-merged on grounds that their merger was illegal.

Mahinda Rajapakse
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse
In his remarks, President Rajapakse distanced his government from the opposition to the merger now before the Sri Lankan judiciary.

Rajapakse complained that Norway, the peace facilitator, did not consult his government before announcing in Brussels Sep 12 that Colombo and LTTE would talk in Oslo early next month.

He said that there was a lot of opposition to Norway in Sri Lanka although he remained committed to its role as peace facilitator.

Although the Oslo-sponsored 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and LTTE is now in tatters, India strongly backs Norway's role as the facilitator, IANS reported.

“New Delhi believes that whatever the shortcoming, Norway, with international backing, alone has the infinite patience and ability to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table,” the agency said, adding that “although India is not a member of the co-chairs, it is fully kept in the picture by the international community seeking to end the Sri Lankan conflict.”

On his way to Brazil and Cuba, Manmohan Singh had told Indian journalists that New Delhi's efforts would be to ensure that the current ceasefire held as a pre-requisite for a durable solution to the island's crisis.

Manmohan Singh also said that India was in touch with Norway and Sri Lanka.

'Our effort is to ensure that the ceasefire holds and that both parties are scrupulously committed to preserving the ceasefire,' he said. 'I think that is an essential prerequisite before we can move forward to a durable solution.'


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