New Delhi's stratagem seeking 'pause'

[TamilNet, Saturday, 28 February 2009, 22:13 GMT]
India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Saturday asked Colombo to 'seize the opportunity' provided by LTTE’s ceasefire offer to bring about a ‘pause’ in hostilities and work for safe passage for 'trapped' civilians. Meanwhile, political observers in Tamil Nadu commented on the move a tactic to nullify their calls for a permanent ceasefire. Vaiko, the General Secretary of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (MDMK) courted arrest with 300 other activists for waging black flags in protest against Mr. Mukherjee, who was on a visit to Thooththukkudi (Tutucorin).

The LTTE was always open for ceasefire, as it didn't start the current war. Recently, LTTE political head B. Nadesan reiterated its preparedness to observe ceasefire. However, observers assign great significance to Mukherjee's sudden 'discovery' to grab the opportunity of this offer. According to them, this diplomatic move of India can prevent any other powers that may come in on one hand, and provide electoral advantage of showing a human face to the voters of India on the other hand.

The move, confined only to a 'pause', also doesn't interfere with the war India is abetting in the island, observers said.

A few days ago, India’s offered to evacuate the civilians without any responsibility, leaving security ‘screening’ and rehabilitation to Colombo and ICRC. Colombo responded favourably to the ‘friendly’ offer.

In the meantime, Colombo rejected receiving a British envoy to sort out matters in the island, but the British move was welcomed by the LTTE.

Colombo’s diplomats worked very hard in seeing the civilian issue not coming under the purview of the UN.

Indian External Affairs Minister has again put the number of the IDPs inside the Mullaiththeevu safe zone at 70,000. However John Holmes while briefing UN Security Council on Friday placed the UN estimation of the figure at 200,000. Holmes also told UN that the estimates of the Tamil groups were higher, reaching 300,000.

Full text of the statement issued by the Indian External Affairs Minister follows:

Statement of External Affairs Miniser Mr. Pranab Mukherjee on appeal to Government of Sri Lanka to work out safe passage for trapped civilians

The Government of India views with grave concern the humanitarian crisis that is building up with every passing day in Sri Lanka. There are reports that over 70,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict zone in Sri Lanka and there is acute shortage of food, water and medicines. Many innocent lives have been lost in the conflict zone. The Government of India has repeatedly expressed its concern for the security and passage to safe zones of the civilian population.

It is reported that the LTTE has offered a ceasefire. While this may fall short of a declaration of willingness to lay down arms, it is our view that the Government of Sri Lanka should seize the opportunity presented by the offer to bring about a pause in the hostilities. The Government of India would, therefore, appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka to immediately work out safe passage for trapped civilians to secure locations. This would require the cooperation of the LTTE.

The pause in hostilities must be utilised to facilitate the movement of Tamil population out of the war-affected areas to secure locations where proper rehabilitation is possible and international aid organisations, as also the ICRC, have free access and scope to provide medical and other forms of humanitarian aid. Government of India is making arrangements to send an emergency medical unit and medicines to render medical assistance to internally displaced persons in Northern Sri Lanka.

This needs to be further followed up by effecting a proper devolution of powers to the Provinces, with assurances of equality and equal rights to all citizens, particularly the Tamil people, within the constitutional framework of Sri Lanka maintaining its territorial integrity.

I sincerely hope that the Government of Sri Lanka and all others will respond to this sincere appeal that is made in the interest of all sections of the people in Sri Lanka.


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