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Lanka conscious of TN factor: Defense Secretary

In an interview, the Defense Secretary says the Sri Lanka government is conscious of the Tamil Nadu factor in determining New Delhi's Sri Lanka policy. PK Balachandran reports.

world Updated: Oct 29, 2007 14:09 IST
PK Balachandran

The Sri Lanka government is conscious of the Tamil Nadu factor in determining New Delhi's Sri Lanka policy, and it strives to ensure that the war waged in the island's North and East is directed against the LTTE terrorists and not against innocent Tamil civilians, Defense Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapksa, has said.

In an interview to the state-owned Rupavahini TV channel on Sunday, Rajapakasa said that India's Central government would be able to help Sri Lanka fight LTTE terrorism only if Tamil civilian casualties were minimal, in view of the fact that Tamil Nadu state was home to 60 million Tamils.

"We have to make Tamil Nadu comfortable so that the Centre can help us," Rajapaksa said.

Being President Mahinda Rajapaksa's brother, the Defense Secretary is one of the three most powerful persons in Sri Lanka.

"It is to avoid (Tamil) civilian casualties that the armed forces took time to liberate the East," Rajapaksa recalled.

"And immediately after the area was cleared, we went about resettling and rehabilitating the displaced civilians. We kept the Indian government briefed about our objectives and strategies.We explained that we were striking terrorism while looking after the interests of the Tamil community," he said.

And India understood what the Sri Lankan armed forces were doing. Sri Lanka had gained India's confidence. "India is very helpful to us," Rajapaksa said.

The Defense Secretary's comments on state TV were significant in the context of an Indian agency's report quoting India's Army chief, Gen.Deepak Kapoor, as saying that India had supplied air defense guns to Sri Lanka.

India had already supplied 2D radars, which, according to the Sri Lankan Air Force chief Air Marshal Roshan Goonetilleke had performed very well doing the recent LTTE air attack on the Anuradhpura air base.

GOOD RELATIONS WITH S.E ASIA KEY

The Sri Lankan Defense Secretary said that not just India but other countries, big and small, were also helping Sri Lanka. He mentioned Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand in this context and said that Sri Lanka was getting valuable information about the clandestine activities of the LTTE in these countries.

"Sri Lanka had for long neglected South East Asia though KP (the LTTE's arms procurer) was living there. But thanks to the visits of our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister we are getting intelligence and we too are sharing intelligence with them," Rajapaksa said.

In the past year, the Sri Lankan Navy has sunk eight LTTE arms carrying freighters which has greatly impaired the group's arms smuggling activities and its ability to challenge the Sri Lankan Navy.

Experts believe that such a situation would not have been possible if Sri Lanka did not have good intelligence cooperation with South East Asian countries.