Bogollagama in Capital to reiterate 'special' relationship
Dismisses suggestions that he is seeking military aid from India, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.Updated: Feb 01, 2007, 06:16 IST
Visiting New Delhi within 72 hours of his appointment as Sri Lanka's new Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama on Wednesday dismissed suggestions that he was seeking military aid from India.
"There is no enhanced military cooperation between India and Sri Lanka," Bogollagama said at a press conference on Wednesday evening. "We share a special relationship with India, which is why I am here within 72 hours of assuming office as Foreign Minister."
Bogollagama, who replaced Mangala Samaraweera as Foreign Minister on January 28, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday. He had what he called "very fruitful discussions" and chalked out his government's road map for a "peaceful, negotiated settlement" in the island nation.
Officials at the Ministry of External Affairs concurred, saying there was no reference to military assistance. According to the officials, Bogollagama explained details of the all party political representation in his government and their progress towards reaching a negotiated settlement.
"I conveyed with clarity the Sri Lankan position," Bogollagama said, during his 30-minute meeting with the Indian Prime Minister. "Once we have accommodated a wider spectrum of political parties, including plantation workers and monks, we can deliver a solution that is people-oriented. A political solution is being sought in consultation with and with blessings of India," he said.
His meeting with Singh and Mukherjee came within days of Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake's meetings with them.
India has consistently urged the Sri Lankan government to politically resolve the country's ethnic problem, within a federal framework, through a negotiated settlement.
The government of President Mahinda Rajapakse, Bogollagama said, was "engaging with the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) to make them stakeholders in the process of bringing about a solution." He denied suggestions that his government was trying to impose a military solution to Sri Lanka's ethnic crisis. He also bristled at suggestions of perpetrating human rights abuses on the LTTE and Tamil population of the eastern province.
"We have a record that is completely sustainable in terms of human rights," he said. Bogollagama is visiting Berlin after New Delhi, for talks with Germany, which holds the current presidency of the European Union. The European monitors of the Sri Lankan peace process have been severely critical of the Rajapakse government's handling of the crisis and threatened to stop aid until the government returns to the negotiating table with the LTTE.