India’s current determined push for peace in Sri Lanka stems very largely from its growing economic stake in the island country.
This was abundantly clear at the end of the two day visit of the Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran on Tuesday.
Saran, who met President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other key functionaries of the Sri Lankan government, told the journalists, that India was worried that continued conflict in the island could result in the LTTE’s attacking key economic targets like the Colombo port.
This was of concern to India because of its growing economic linkages in the island, he said.
He pointed out that India was set to build a coal fired power plant in Trincomalee, and was going to relay the tsunami hit rail line between Colombo and Galle.
The LTTE had already intended to attack Colombo port, he said, alluding to the recent arrest of two LTTE cadres with diving equipment and limpet mines in the beaches north of Colombo.
Strengthen defence but push for talks also
India, Saran said, wanted Sri Lanka to act on two fronts simultaneously: the security front and the political front.
He strongly urged President Rajapaksa to evolve a power-sharing arrangement with the North Eastern Tamils.
And he offered India’s constitutional expertise in this regard.
Saran sought the evolution of a political consensus on the peace process, an agreement among the Sinhala dominated political parties in the southern part of the island.
In the context of the challenges from the LTTE on the security front, Saran said that India would help strengthen Sri Lanka’s “deterrent power”.
He described this as being part of the on-going cooperation in the field of defence.
India, Saran reiterated, was against the escalation of the conflict, as war was no option.
Asked what kind of response he got from the Sri Lankan side, Saran said that there was a discernable interest in exploring the political option, with the President even saying that he was interested in looking at the Indian model of power-sharing.