Be patient please, Lanka to tell India

Rajapaksa will visit Delhi this weekend with a polite request not to rush him into a political settlement with Tamils.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2006 12:34 IST

In the face of persistent Indian calls to devolve autonomy to the Tamils, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrives here this weekend with a polite request not to rush him into a political settlement.

The president is also expected to tell the Indian political leadership that if and when Colombo agrees to a negotiated settlement, it will not just be with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) but involve other Tamils as well.

And such an inclusive process, one that has to satisfy all sections of the ethnic divide in Sri Lanka, will take time, maybe months or even years, and that Colombo should not be pushed into anything.

Highly placed sources told the agency that while Sri Lanka did not see India as just another global player in the ethnic conflict, Colombo was getting tired of being hectored on issues like power sharing and federalism.

"India must learnt to be patient," one source said, summarising the thrust of Sri Lankan thinking on devolution of power to the Tamils and other minorities on which Colombo is being pilloried by the international community.

India has repeatedly told Sri Lanka, mostly privately, that while it respects the island nation's territorial integrity, it needs to act fast to come up with a political solution to end a conflict that has taken over 65,000 lives since 1983 and shows no signs of ending.

In India's view, the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil community have to be met. A top Indian official warned recently while speaking to the agency that a failure by Sri Lanka on this count could lead to disastrous consequences.

Rajapaksa is arriving here on Saturday for his second trip to India in a year. He will open a conference of mayors in Dehradun in Uttaranchal on Sunday.

Later in New Delhi he will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He returns home on November 29.

The sources said that India would be told that the Rajapaksa administration's attempt was to move away from the "elitist manipulative" kind of dealings of the past that went in the name of political settlement.

"A manipulative mechanism may work immediately but it will never last," the source explained. "

And we will not go for a settlement only with the LTTE though it is a powerful military group. Other Tamil groups will be involved. And so will be other communities.

"We cannot have a deal just between a section of the Sinhalese elite, however much they may be supported by Western countries, and one part of the Tamil side.

"India has to understand this, and India has to support us. Unlike some of the Western countries who may prefer 'elitist manipulative' settlements, India needs to see us differently."

The sources said Tamils were getting a "wrong idea" of the present government because of its dependence on Sinhalese nationalist parties such as JVP and JHU.

Sections of the Indian establishment also see JVP as some kind of a spoiler, a political entity unwilling to make far-reaching and necessary compromises.

But JVP and JHU have to be taken along, the sources said, because without their involvement, there could be "no southern consensus" - unanimity in the Sinhalese majority southern Sri Lanka - and without which there could be no end to war.

The sources, however, admitted that many innocent Tamils had died in recent fighting in Sri Lanka's northeast, where some 2,500 people have been killed this year, making a mockery of the 2002 Norway-brokered ceasefire agreement.

Indian sources have said that the Indian leadership would like to listen to Rajapaksa at some length to understand the finer nuances of the situation in Sri Lanka.

The US, Norway, Japan and the 25-nation European Union this week urged both Sri Lanka and LTTE to stop fighting and return to negotiations.

But few here believe this is going to happen, at least in the immediate future.

First Published: Nov 23, 2006 11:22 IST