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'Military offensive to continue against LTTE'

world Updated: Jan 17, 2009 20:54 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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Sri Lanka on Saturday conveyed to India that the military offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) would continue till the cornered rebels were defeated. At the same time, the Lankan government was committed to a political resolution to the issue of Tamil ethnicity, India was told.

Meeting over breakfast in Kandy, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon that "he would deal with terrorism firmly and militarily."

According to a statement from Rajapaksa's office, Menon too ``reaffirmed India's cooperation with Sri Lanka in the attempts to eliminate terrorism from Sri Lanka and the region.'' Menon is said to have told Rajapaksa that the ``relations between India and Sri Lanka have never been so close, so warm and so deep.''

Both the statement from the president's house and the Indian side were silent about the humanitarian crisis brewing in the north. There was also no word from either side on the condition of civilians who have been repeatedly displaced because of the fighting.

On Friday, India announced the second installment of humanitarian assistance amounting to SLR 40 million for the displaced Tamil civilians.

However, in the first such field report compiled after the fall of Kilinochchi on January 2, the International Committee for Red Cross (ICRC) said on Friday that the last links with the displaced were severed on January 9. So, it remains to be seen how the Indian aid reaches the displaced.

It was learnt that India did not raise the demand made by ethnic Tamil parties to stop the war and instead extend humanitarian assistance to the civilians.

A diplomat said India also knows the repercussions of stopping the war at this stage and throwing a crucial lifeline to the Tamil Tigers.

The diplomat added that India was likely to have been told that the number of displaced was around a lakh and not more than 3 lakhs that some INGOs and Tamil political parties have claimed.

``They are in a 30 km by 20 km area (in Mullaitivu district). If 300000 people were to stand shoulder by shoulder, they would have spilled out of the district,'' he said.