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India and Lanka's territorial integrity

india Updated: Jan 11, 2007 15:01 IST
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India's support for the preservation of Sri Lanka's territorial integrity is absolute and is not linked to any particular solution to the Tamil question, a top source in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi told Hindustan Times.

India had made it clear to the MPs of the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA), when they visited New Delhi last, that it would back the Tamils' demand for a political solution to the ethnic conflict, but only so long as that solution did not violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

India rejected the TNA's plea that its support to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka should not be absolute, and that it should be linked to the question whether the solution offered by the Sri Lankan government satisfied the "Tamils" or not.

What the TNA MPs were driving at was that India's support to Sri Lanka's integrity should be withdrawn if the solution offered by the Sri Lankan government was not acceptable to the "Tamils", by which they meant the "LTTE".

Stand on de-merger disappoints TNA

The TNA is also very disappointed with the way India is looking at the issue of   the de-merger of the Tamil speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The TNA expected India to enforce the India-Sri Lanka Accord which had brought about the merger in 1987-88 to give the Tamil minority a united Tamil-speaking North Eastern Province, meeting one of their long-standing demands.

But India is looking at the de-merger from a purely legal standpoint.

The Minister of External Affairs, Pranab Mukherjee, told newsmen in Colombo earlier in the week, that since the Sri Lankan Supreme Court had struck down the merger on legal grounds, the issue had to be dealt with legally, and that it was for the Sri Lankan government to take the appropriate legal steps.

What Mukherjee was hinting at was that there was little that India could do in the matter.

However, he did what he could for the Tamils, by asking the Sri Lankan leaders for the speedy rehabilitation of the Tamil war refugees, 250,000 of whom were internally displaced, and 15,000 had fled to India.

But the Indian Minister could not press the issue beyond a point because of considerations of sovereignty and also because India had burnt its fingers by directly intervening in Sri Lanka earlier in the 1980s.

Economic stakes

India has also developed high economic stakes in Sri Lanka which prevent it from rubbing Colombo on the wrong side.

The India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement is a resounding success from the point of view of both the countries.

After a two year struggle, the Lanka Indian Oil Corporation has got its dues from the Sri Lankan government amounting to SLRs 5 billion.

Apollo Hospital, which was driven out earlier by a local take over tycoon, is back in business with a new technical agreement with the same tycoon.

And the prospects for the future look good too.

The National Thermal Power Corporation is to set up two 200 MW coal-fired power plants in Trincomalee.The Oil and Natural Gas Commission is interested in exploration in the Gulf of Mannar.

And the Sri Lankan Minister for Enterprise Promotion, Rohitha Bogollagama, has said that he wants Indian investment to constitute 40 per cent of the total of $1 billion FDI he hopes to get in the near future.

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