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Lanka's deteriorating situation worries India

India is concerned over the situation in Sri Lanka where rapidly rising killings and counter-killings have the potential to suddenly blow up.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 12:23 IST

India is seriously concerned over the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka where rapidly rising killings and counter-killings have the potential to suddenly blow up.

Even if Colombo and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) do meet in Geneva, the understanding here is that there is an urgent need for both sides to rebuild mutual trust.

But increasingly even that appears near impossible. New Delhi feels that even if the LTTE acted hastily by refusing to let its eastern commanders travel by a ship from the island's east to the north citing security concerns, Colombo could have been more accommodating.

The government first refused to let the LTTE commanders fly in Sri Lankan military helicopters although this had been the custom.

When the LTTE vowed to sail in its own Sea Tigers vessels, Colombo warned of serious consequences.

Eventually, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) stepped in and arranged a civilian vessel to sail from the east to the north where an LTTE leaders' meeting had been called ahead of the Geneva talks scheduled for this month.

But the Tigers called off the travel plans at the eleventh hour, accusing the navy of posing dangers to them.

In the impasse, the talks got postponed from April 19-21 to April 24-25. Now there is no certainty even about the latter dates.

What is worrying New Delhi is the seeming loss of mutual trust between the government and the Tigers, leading to frictions and statements of one-upmanship, all of which can collectively deal body blows to the fragile peace process.

Even as the international community is breathing down hard on the LTTE, with Canada joining countries that have banned the Tigers, the Sri Lankan government seems to be lacking focused plans aimed at resolving the conflict.

India has emphasized three points to the Sri Lankan leadership:

-- A flawed ceasefire is better than no ceasefire.

-- Do not lose sight of the larger picture of maintaining Sri Lanka's unity, but do not bicker over relatively petty issues; and

-- Try building a southern consensus to push the peace process forward.

But Sinhalese hardliners, both within the ruling coalition and outside, are continuing to go hammer and tongs against peace facilitator Norway and also the shortcomings in the ceasefire agreement.

Reports reaching here show that President Mahindra Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the opposition United National Party (UNP) are displaying no urgency to build a "southern consensus" over the peace process.

At the same time, the LTTE is in no hurry to go to Geneva, saying the government has not fulfilled the promises it made in the first round of the meeting in the Swiss city in February.

These include curbing the activities of an anti-LTTE Tamil group led by its former regional commander Karuna. Colombo denies any links with Karuna.

On the other hand, the LTTE has been accused of killing troops despite a pledge in February not to do so. The Tigers of course deny the charge.

In turn the LTTE says that security forces and the Karuna group are killing its members and supporters at will.

Amid all this mess, the Indian government is seriously worried.