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Sri Lankan peace official visiting India

india Updated: Aug 26, 2007 12:20 IST

The head of Sri Lanka's peace secretariat is visiting India this week for interactions on his country's barely alive peace process and also to release an anthology of short stories.

Rajiva Wijesinghe, secretary general of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), will arrive in New Delhi on Tuesday on a three-day visit. It will be his first trip to New Delhi after he took charge in June.

On Wednesday, he will share his thoughts on the situation in his country -- where thousands have died in renewed violence this year alone -- with Sri Lanka watchers as well as diplomats from the US, the European Union, Japan and Norway.

The four international actors form the co-chairs group that oversees the peace process between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

But Wijesinghe, 52, told IANS on telephone from Colombo, "This would be at the intellectual level, not government-to-government."

The interaction is to be hosted by the New Delhi-based Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), a government-funded body that keeps a close watch on the unending ethnic conflict among other issues.

"People are concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka," said IDSA deputy director Virendra Gupta. "There is so much spotlight on that. He will talk about the situation and a (possible) resolution of the conflict."

Added a diplomatic source, "he is meeting with Indian personalities, commentators and analysts."

Wijesinghe himself said that no meetings were scheduled with Indian government officials although he proposed to discuss ways to step up educational exchanges between the two countries.

"The Indian and Sri Lankan governments had signed an agreement some time back regarding this. It has not moved forward as we wanted to," he said. "I would like to take it forward."

Wijesinghe also spoke about his government's intention to end the conflict and bring about devolution of powers to the minorities.

"It would be ideal to have negotiations again," he said. "The government is also looking towards recruiting minorities in public services and security forces for a long-time solution. We have been neglecting this.

"Confidence building in the peace process is important. Ultimately, there has to be very solid economic development... empowerment of the people."

Wijesinghe, who took charge of the Sri Lankan peace secretariat from Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona, is considered close to President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Wijesinghe has taken an aggressive stand in recent times vis-à-vis Western critics of the situation in Sri Lanka, where the military is now preparing to take on the LTTE in the island's rebel-controlled north.

Although Colombo keeps telling the international community that it favours a negotiated settlement, sections in the Sri Lankan government are determined to chart what they think will be a military victory over the Tamil Tigers.

Wijesinghe would also release here an anthology of Sri Lankan short stories written originally in Tamil, Sinhala and English. The book has been edited and compiled by him.