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China and Pak armed Lanka, India will feed it

world Updated: Jun 11, 2009 00:55 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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China and Pakistan supplied fighter jets and automatic rifles to Sri Lanka to fight the LTTE; India could soon send tractors, manure and high-yield seeds to revive Lanka from the ruins of war.

M.S. Swaminathan, who helped usher India’s green revolution, presented on Tuesday a roadmap for the revival of agriculture in northern Lankan districts to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was in north Lanka in the districts of Mullaitivu, Killinochchi and Mannar, among others, where the Tamil rebels had fought government troops for 26 years, till LTTE was militarily wiped out in May.

The LTTE, it seems, not only denied peace to Sri Lanka for decades, they also starved the rest of Lanka of small onions, chillies and beans.

“More than 80 per cent of the Tamils in north Lanka were farmers for generations. The livelihood revival of internally displaced persons could be done through the revival of agriculture. Vanni (the northern Lanka) is the best area for agriculture. Farming could be revived not only by cultivating crops, but also through animal husbandry, horticulture, fisheries and vegetables and fruits,’’ he said.

Working in a post-conflict zone is not new for the 85-year-old. The reputed agricultural scientist, also a Rajya Sabha member, has extensive experience in reviving the agriculture sectors in Vietnam and Cambodia after bloody conflicts ended in these countries.

For starters, an agricultural research institute is to be set up in the district of Vavuniya. The first choice was Kilinochchi, the former political capital of LTTE. But LTTE left it littered with deadly anti-personnel mines, and it would take a few months to clear them.

Fisheries institutes would be set up in Mannar in the west coast and then extended to east coast of Mullaitivu, once the rebels’ military nerve centre and the final theatre of war. Mobile research institutes will also be put in place. Swaminathan suggested that consortium of Indian institutes and scientists would help in the revival of agriculture here.

“They would have to be complemented by scientists and farmers from Sri Lanka.”

Like many armies, Swaminathan said, the LTTE also followed a scorched-earth policy, burning areas they evacuated. “The LTTE seemed to have allowed some basic agriculture. They also needed food. Armies move on bellies,’’ he said.

Swaminthan would be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister SM Krishna later this week once he is back in New Delhi. “I will tell them about the progress of my interactions here. The President (Rajapaksa) was especially positive,’’ he said.

India has already pledged Rs 500 crore ($110 million) for post-conflict reconstruction to the Lankan government. But as a senior bureaucrat told Swaminathan: “money will not be the limiting factor here.’’