Rao faces some hard questions in Jaffna
India today rejected reports that it was bringing its own nationals to Sri Lanka to carry out reconstruction work in the war-ravaged northern districts. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.world Updated: Sep 01, 2010 20:00 IST
India on Wednesday rejected reports that it was bringing its own nationals to Sri Lanka to carry out reconstruction work in the war-ravaged northern districts.
Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, on a three-day visit to the Island nation, categorically denied that there was any move to bring in Indian labour for reconstruction work here. Construction of houses and other reconstruction work that India was helping Sri Lanka with was being done with local help, Rao reiterated.
A report in the local Sunday Times newspaper had claimed that India was transporting 20,000 workers to Sri Lanka to carry out reconstruction activities.
On Wednesday, Rao visited the eastern coastal town of Trincomalee and Mullaitivu, the final theatre of battle.
"We will not only build houses but also repair them. We want to participate in their recovery and progress," Rao said during her visit to the Mullaitivu administrative district.
On Tuesday, Rao visited Jaffna, the senior-most Indian bureaucrat to do so in decades, Kilinochchi and the camps for the internally displaced in Vavuniya.
In Jaffna, Rao had an interactive meet with members of the civil society where Tamil academics and intellectuals shared their complaints, apprehensions and expectations about India's role in Sri Lanka with her.
According to reports, Rao was told that the people of Jaffna expect India to play an active role in extracting a political settlement on the ethnic issue from Colombo. But at the same time, doubts were expressed whether India, which sided with the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in its fight against the Tamil Tigers, would indeed help the Lankan Tamils to get that. Mere resettlement of war-displaced Tamils in small pockets of the northern districts will not achieve anything, she was told.
Rao, meanwhile, met President Rajapaksa on Wednesday evening. Rajapaksa told her that Indian investor interest in Sri Lanka was rapidly growing, and that several leading Indian entrepreneurs in industry and other sectors have expressed interest in setting up business in Sri Lanka.
A statement from Rajapaksa's office said during the 45-minute discussion, Rao expressed satisfaction at the progress in IDP resettlement. Rajapaksa said that IDPs should be involved in these projects, especially the housing projects, so that they would have a sense of ownership in them.