More civilian casualties in the Sri Lankan military’s operations against the Tamil Tigers would be “totally unacceptable” to India, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement on Friday.
Ratcheting up the rhetoric as polling for the Lok Sabha elections approaches in Tamil Nadu, Mukherjee said Colombo must extend the “pause in hostilities” to enable civilians trapped in the area to escape.
“While it is incumbent on the LTTE to release all civilians…under their control, the Government of Sri Lanka cannot be oblivious to the evolving human tragedy and the fate of the Tamil civilian population caught up in the so-called no-fire zone,” Mukherjee stressed.
India, he underlined, expected Colombo and others to respond positively to this “appeal in the interest of the Tamils who are citizens of Sri Lanka”. The strongly worded statement did not specify what India might do in the event of the Sri Lankan government rejecting any extension in the “pause” in military operations.
While an escalation in New Delhi’s rhetoric is understandable given that political parties in Tamil Nadu are jockeying to project themselves as the guardians of Tamil civilians in Lanka, India’s options are clearly limited if the Rajapakse government continues with military operations.
Under pressure from the AIADMK-Left parties front on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, late on Friday, Chief Minister M Karunadhi dashed off a letter to the Centre to sever all diplomatic ties with Sri Lanka if India’s request for a ceasefire was not heeded to by the Rajapakshe regime.
At the same time, Karunanidhi expressed satisfaction over Mukherjee message to Sri Lanka expressing concern over the human tragedy unfolding in the Island’s North-East. “We welcome with gratitude the appeal made by the External Affairs Minister for ceasefire in Sri Lanka.”