India has conveyed to Sri Lanka that beyond resettling and rehabilitating displaced Tamils, Colombo should begin the political process to resolve festering ethnic issues that plunged the island nation into decades of civil conflict.
“…the focus on development and rehabilitation is welcomed but a long term perspective that also includes the issues relating to the political settlement that would meet some of the needs of the minorities should also be kept in mind," foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said.
It was learnt that Rao assured President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during their Wednesday evening meeting, that India would continue to aid and support Sri Lanka's efforts towards people-centric rehabilitation. But the long-term perspective was politically settling the issues.
"He (Rajapaksa) constantly said he was focused on that (political solution) need. And that he plans to move on it. He has his sight set on that," Rao said, adding that the Lankan government was aware about how India was looking at the issue of political settlement.
She brought up the issue of violence against Indian fishermen and suggested regular meetings between the joint working group, constituted to look into the issue, to mitigate cases of their alleged harassment.
Rao ended her three-day visit Thursday afternoon after rushing through Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya and Trincomalee – districts ravaged by war and home to majority of the 300000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Rao's Sri Lanka visit was among the first of several high-profile ones slated in the coming weeks and months. While foreign minister SM Krishna is expected in October, Indian army chief, Lieutenant General VK Singh, is slated to arrive in Colombo on Sunday.
During her visit, the foreign secretary also gave the sanction to open a new wing, the Sri Lanka-specific 'development cooperation wing' (DCW), at the High Commission of India here. The wing would monitor India's ongoing projects – including the building of 50000 houses in the north and laying of new railway lines – in Sri Lanka. India has a similar wing at the Kathmandu High Commission.