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PM voices concern over Lanka situation

india Updated: Dec 22, 2006 15:40 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday voiced India's concern over the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka at a path-breaking meeting with a group of Tamil MPs from the island nation who are supportive of the Tamil Tigers.

Speaking outside Manmohan Singh's office, R Sampanthan, who led the five-member Tamil National Alliance (TNA) team, quoted the prime minister as saying that India was "very concerned about the denial of human rights" to the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.

Sampanthan also quoted Manmohan Singh as saying: "India is committed to a peaceful solution (of the conflict) in a manner acceptable to the Tamil speaking people.

This message has been clearly conveyed to Sri Lanka on more than one occasion."

The TNA leader added: "He (Manmohan Singh) assured us that India will continue to make every effort to see that Tamils get their self respect and dignity."

Sampanthan described the 45-minute meeting, also attended by National Security Adviser MK Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, as one "of tremendous significance" and said that it "will have significant impact on the coming future".

"We look forward to the Indian government taking appropriate action for the security of the Tamil people," Sampathan told reporters.

Manmohan Singh, Sampanthan said, also expressed dismay over moves to break into two the island's northeastern province that was merged into one following the 1987 India-Sri Lanka accord.

"He was very concerned about that... It will cause immense harm... There must be a political resolution to the crisis."

Friday's meeting is the first high-profile one between an Indian prime minister and any Tamil group sympathetic to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which New Delhi outlawed in 1992.

It took place two days after the TNA delegation had similar discussions with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, whose DMK party is a key member of the country's ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

However, a meeting between the TNA MPs and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi did not take place.

Queried about that, Sampanthan said they were told that the Congress president was touring Uttar Pradesh.

In a gesture of warmth, Manmohan Singh came out of his office to personally receive the TNA delegation with folded hands.

After handshakes, the visitors were led to the meeting room where Sampanthan and Mavai S Senathirajah, the two senior most MPs, draped blue and green colour shawls respectively around the prime minister to signify their respect.

Sampanthan called the discussions "very successful" and said he related to the Indian leader "the pathetic and deplorable situation" in Sri Lanka regarding human rights and the Tamil civilian population in the northeast.

"We impressed upon the prime minister that the aggressive military attitude of the Sri Lankan government had killed and grievously injured innocent people.

Tamil property has been destroyed; livelihood has been destroyed. Tamil people are without food, without medicines. Food was being used as a weapon of war.

"This should not continue. The situation is getting worse. Even one of our colleagues has been assassinated, in Colombo, in broad daylight.

"On the political front we don't see any progress... The de-merger of the northeast has removed the cornerstone of the peace process. There can be no peaceful resolution of the conflict in the context of a de-merged northeast.

"We told the prime minister that India's commitment to Sri Lanka's unity and integrity without the Tamil people getting their due political space would not be meaningful. If the present situation continues, great harm will be caused."

The TNA MPs had also visited New Delhi three months ago to meet Manmohan Singh but failed to do that then.

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