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Manmohan evades SL Tamil MPs

india Updated: Sep 22, 2006 21:17 IST
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Very keen on opening a line of communication with India's top leadership in New Delhi the LTTE had encouraged its proxy in the Sri Lankan Parliament, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), to go to India and get an audience with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

But Dr Singh dodged the MPs.

Unable to see him, despite waiting for a number of days in New Delhi as well as Chennai, the five-member team submitted a memorandum to Indian officials, and returned to Chennai, very disappointed, on Friday.

They had come very close to seeing the Prime Minister twice, the last time was on Friday. But at the last minute they were told that a suitable slot could not be found.

The Indian Prime Minister was apparently under pressure from officialdom and a section of his political allies in Tamil Nadu not to see the pro-LTTE MPs.

There were also other very important considerations relating to India-Sri Lanka relations in the context of Pakistan's bid to woo Colombo in the absence of active Indian help to beleaguered Sri Lanka.

India might also be wanting the current military effort by the Sri Lankan government to keep the LTTE on the run, to continue.

In New Delhi's view this may be the only way to get the recalcitrant outfit to see reason and come to the negotiating table with an intention to find a realistic and acceptable solution to both immediate and long term problems.

The TNA MPs however met several top members of the Indian Establishment, including the Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed, the National Security Advisor MK Narayanan, and the Foreign Secretary designate, Shiv Shankar Menon.

They participated in a seminar on India-Sri Lanka relations at the Indian Council of World Affairs where they said that the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the LTTE deeply regretted the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

LTTE's stakes in India

Earlier, in an interview to the Singapore daily Tamil Murasu the LTTE's political commissar, SP Tamilselvan, said that India should be kept in the loop as regards the happenings in Sri Lanka.

"It is our moral responsibility to keep India informed about the conditions prevailing in Sri Lanka," he stressed.

"Since India is a neighbouring country, in which a large number of our people live or have sought refuge, it is necessary for us to explain to them the real situation prevailing here."

"It is in this context that the MPs of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have been meeting the leaders of Tamil Nadu and are ready to meet the Indian Prime Minister," he said.

"Countries of the world should see us (the LTTE-led Tamil struggle) from a humanitarian angle and give us moral support. They should stop supporting and encouraging a government which is indulging in genocide," Tamilselvan said.

Sri Lanka sends Indian Godman to talk to LTTE  

Given its disillusionment with the West, the Sri Lankan government is also leaning heavily on India to solve the ethnic question in the island, and bring about a honourable peace.

"India can pressure the LTTE to come for talks, " said President Mahinda Rajapaksa while addressing the Asia Society in New York on Thursday.

"India helps us a lot. For anything we go to India first. We always seek India's advice," he said.

Even as Rajapaksa was saying this, back home in the island,  his government had flown the Bangalore-based religious guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, to the LTTE's political headquarters at Kilinochchi to meet the LTTE's leaders and convince them to come for talks.

"He preached to them the importance of peace," said the Sri Lankan Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella.

It would be "good" if the Indian religious leader could bring the LTTE to the negotiating table, the spokesman told Hindustan Times.

"We gave what ever facilities the organizers asked for," Rambukwella said explaining why the government sent one of its military helicopters to fly Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in and out of the LTTE's headquarters at Kilinochchi.

It is not clear as to who exactly Sri Sri Ravi Shankar met in Kilinochchi as all that Ramubukwella would say was that he had met the "LTTE hierarchy".

The LTTE too seemed to be keen to connect with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar because it not only held talks with him for two hours, but allowed the Sri Lankan military helicopter with the guru on board, to fly over territory controlled by it in the midst of war.

When the meeting was on, Sri Lankan Air Force jets were pounding Palai, just north of Kilinochchi.

However, very significantly, both the government and the LTTE are silent on the visit and mission of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who reportedly flew out of the island on Thursday.

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