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SL rejects India's call for truce

Lanka is not ready to end hostilities until it retakes a strategic region overlooking Trincomalee port. Express your opinion

india Updated: Aug 29, 2006 14:34 IST

India and the rest of the international community have sought an immediate cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka.

Colombo, however, has refused to do so until it retakes a strategic region overlooking the eastern port of Trincomalee.

India and the US have conveyed to the Sri Lankan government, directly and otherwise, their concerns over the long-term consequences of continuing bloodletting that has taken a serious turn in recent months leaving hundreds dead.

India and members of the co-chairs to Sri Lanka's peace process, including the US, European Union, Japan and peace facilitator Norway, say their message is also directed at the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and not just Colombo.

But disregarding the appeals, Sri Lanka has launched a major military offensive to recapture Sampur and nearby areas from LTTE so as to secure Trincomalee, the island's most important naval base.

The dominant feeling in the international community is that unending fighting is not going to help resolve a problem that basically needs a political resolution.

"We want a cessation of hostilities. We want an immediate full stop to fighting," a representative of one of the co-chairs said just before Sri Lanka's latest offensive started on Monday in Trincomalee district. "No one has really gained in fighting so far and no one is really going to gain much."

The Sri Lankan government argues that its Trincomalee base is vulnerable to attacks from LTTE-held Sampur and any offensive to capture Sampur area should not be seen as a violation of the Norway-brokered 2002 ceasefire agreement.

The LTTE had earlier informed Norway that it would respond adequately if Colombo halted its campaign of artillery attacks and aerial bombardments on Tamil Tiger territory.

This was seen as a small window of opportunity. But Colombo is being presently driven by an assessment that this is the time to strike hard blows at the LTTE.

This, one Western diplomat said, may pay off for now but not in the long run.

"It is astonishing that there are still people in Sri Lanka who think a military victory is possible," the diplomat said. "The only places where they think this way are Kilinochchi and Colombo," he added, referring to the capitals of the LTTE zone in northeastern Sri Lanka and of the island nation itself.

Norway is in touch with both parties and is doing what it can to somehow make the two sides understand the necessity to talk so as to end a conflict that has dragged on and on since 1983, left over 65,000 people dead and badly decimated a country that was once seen as South Asia's answer to Singapore.

The feeling in the international community is that the Sri Lankan government is "very clear" about its immediate military objectives. But the question is whether strategic victories will help push the LTTE to the negotiating table or harden its stance further?