Indian foreign minister, Lankan leaders discuss peace
Pranab's one-day visit is primarily to invite Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to a regional summit that India will host in April.india Updated: Jan 10, 2007 13:17 IST
India's visiting foreign minister discussed Sri Lanka's faltering peace process with the island nation's leaders on Tuesday, the government said.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's one-day visit was primarily to invite Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to a regional summit that India will host in April, but also included talks on resolving the more than two-decade civil conflict in the country, just off the southern tip of India.
Mukherjee met Rajapaksa, along with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and other leaders on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The Sri Lankan leaders shared with the Indian minister the measures taken to ensure security while pursuing the peace process," the statement said.
"President Rajapaksa reiterated his steadfast commitment to a negotiated political solution to the national issue," it said.
India had in the past taken a keen interest in solving the bloody conflict between Sri Lanka's government and Tamil Tigers who want to carve out a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils in the northeast.
India is home to some 56 million Tamils with family and cultural ties to those in Sri Lanka.
India, however, distanced itself from the conflict after the 1991 assassination of its former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a Tiger suicide bomber, apparently in revenge for New Delhi's decision to send a peacekeeping force to its tiny neighbour in 1987.
Despite its reluctance to play a direct mediating role, New Delhi has continued to push for a negotiated and peaceful settlement to the conflict.
A 2002 Norway-brokered ceasefire brought a few years of relative peace to the tropical island, but since late 2005, violence in Sri Lanka has escalated, with over 3,600 people killed last year alone.
India is hosting a summit of the regional South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, in April.
The grouping was formed in 1985 to promote regional trade and economic cooperation.
It comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Last year, it admitted Afghanistan as the eighth member.