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Pawar's plea to Rajapaksa on devolution package

Sharad Pawar, Indian Minister for Agriculture and political veteran, has urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to offer a devolution package which will satisfy the political "moderates" in Sri Lanka, reports PK Balachandran.

world Updated: May 26, 2007 17:57 IST
PK Balachandran

Sharad Pawar, Indian Minister for Agriculture and political veteran, has urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to offer a devolution package which will satisfy the political "moderates" in Sri Lanka.

In his meeting with Rajapaksa in Colombo earlier this week, Pawar emphasized the need to find a political rather than a military solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, and urged the President to fashion a devolution package that would satisfy at least the moderates among the Tamils and Sinhalas, reliable sources told Hindustan Times on Saturday.

Pawar had met the Tamil moderates V Anandasangaree and Douglas Devananda, and the Sinhala moderate Prof Tissa Vitharana.

The Indian Agriculture Minister held talks with his counterpart Maithripala Sirisena on India-Sri Lanka cooperation in agricultural development.

Moderates felt let down

India and the Sri Lankan moderates, cutting across ethnic lines, were dismayed by the devolution proposal made by Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which rejected the concept of a federal state, and made the "district" the unit of devolution instead of the larger "province".

The Tamil moderates had had an additional complaint - that the proposal did not envisage an autonomous and united Tamil-speaking North-Eastern Province.

Lankan defence secretary in Delhi

While Pawar was tendering political advice to the Sri Lankan President, the latter's brother and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was in New Delhi negotiating the delivery of modern radars and other air defence systems against the threat posed by the fledgling air force of the LTTE.

Sri Lanka, India and the US are worried about the LTTE's air capability as it has taken the armed conflict in Sri Lanka to a new and more dangerous level, with international ramifications.

Richard Boucher, who heads the South Asia office of the US State
Department, said in Colombo recently, that the Sri Lankan government had the right to destroy the LTTE's planes.