A Tamil political party sympathetic to the Tamil Tigers has told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that India has to play a role in ending the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.
Accusing Colombo of causing misery to civilians by relentlessly pursuing war against the Tigers, a team of MPs from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) told Manmohan Singh in Colombo late on Friday that the global community also expected India to act.
“India has a role to play. India's role (in Sri Lanka) is primary. And India should play that role,” TNA team leader R. Sambandan, a 75-year-old MP from Trincomalee, told IANS, giving a gist of what he and his other colleagues told Manmohan Singh.
Sambandan said the international community, which too favours peace in Sri Lanka, was deferential to India and did not want to take any step without New Delhi's approval. “So India has to play a role,” he said.
Sambandan said during the 15-20 minute meeting, the TNA briefed Manmohan Singh at length about the situation in Sri Lanka, in particular the northeastern region where the military is locked in fierce battles with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
“We had a very good and cordial meeting with the prime minister,” Sambandan said. “The prime minister listened to us very patiently, very attentively, and he appeared very concerned.”
Manmohan Singh, the MP said, told them that India had consistently taken the stand that there can never be a military solution to the conflict, which has claimed over 70,000 lives since 1983, and that there has to be a negotiated political settlement.
The Indian leader also reportedly told the MPs that any political solution would have to be largely acceptable to the Tamil people and to everyone else in Sri Lanka.
According to Sambandan, Manmohan Singh also said that India was concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and had voiced its concerns to the government in Colombo.
Sambandan alleged that the Sri Lankan military offensive against the LTTE was largely affecting the civilian population, leading to deaths, serious injuries and mass displacement in the island's northeast.
“The situation is alarming,” he said. “We are concerned that the government is not interested in finding a political solution that may be acceptable even to the Tamil moderates.”
He also expressed the TNA's vehement opposition to the de-merger of Sri Lanka's north and east, which constituted one Tamil-majority province until a Supreme Court ruling forced it to be split into two as it existed before the India-Sri Lanka accord of 1987.
Asked if the LTTE would ever accept a negotiated settlement, Sambandan said he told Manmohan Singh that Colombo had never come up with a political solution that could pose a political challenge to the LTTE. “If that comes up, they can't say no,” the TNA leader said.