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India offers to broker Lanka peace

world Updated: Feb 17, 2009 18:10 IST
HT Foreign Bureau

Nearly two decades after an Indian peace-keeping force withdrew from Sri Lanka, New Delhi has again volunteered to help negotiate an end to the island nation's ethnic conflict provided the LTTE laid down arms and agreed to talks.

"Our (Congress) policy is clear. LTTE is an armed militant group. They must announce that they are willing to lay down arms and are prepared for talks. Simultaneously, the Sri Lankan Government should suspend its military offensive," Home Minister P. Chidambaram was quoted by PTI as saying in Chennai on Sunday night.

"Indian Government will definitely arrange for a dialogue if the LTTE lays down arms and came forward for talks. A good solution can be found to the 40 lakh Tamils in Sri Lanka," he said at a public meeting.

The Union Minister criticised the LTTE for not utilising the recent 48-hour ceasefire proposed by the Sri Lankan Government to allow people to move to safer areas and come for talks, the news agency reported.

Earlier, articulating the UPA government's view, President Pratibha Patil said on February 12 that India wanted a "negotiated political settlement in Sri Lanka within the framework of an undivided Sri Lanka acceptable to all the communities, including the Tamil community."

"I would appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka and to the LTTE to return to the negotiating table. This can be achieved if, simultaneously, the Government of Sri Lanka suspends its military operations and the LTTE declares its willingness to lay down arms and to begin talks with the government," the President said in her address to Parliament.

A Sri Lankan official, speaking to the Hindustan Times on background, said on Monday that there had been close contacts between India and Sri Lanka right through the latest round of hostilities with the Tamil Tigers.

According to the official, the second aspect – India arranging for a dialogue between Colombo and the Tigers – could be a little in advance of the Sri Lankan government's own thinking.

He did, however, add, "If the LTTE were to lay down their arms, then many options would open up."