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Chandrika's India visit may be politically significant

The former Sri Lankan president will be visiting India shortly, according to her secretary, P Dissanayake, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2007 15:43 IST

Former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga is to visit India shortly, according to her Secretary, P Dissanayake.

He told Hindustan Times on Wednesday, that she had been invited to visit New Delhi by "the government and other organisations".

Dissanayake refused to reveal the purpose of the visit or the organisations which had invited her.

But given the re-emergence of New Delhi as a key player in Sri Lanka's ethno-politics, especially after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's landmark meeting with the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Kumaratunga's visit cannot but have a political meaning, political observers say.

Sri Lankan leaders are now making a beeline to South Block. The new Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, had called on the Indian leaders, the moment he took charge. The Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe had also come calling.

They briefed the Indian top brass on their view of the political situation in Sri Lanka, especially the war and the stalled peace process, aspects of the Sri Lankan situation which had become critical for India given Tamil Nadu's sensitivities and the increasing involvement of the international community in Sri Lanka's ethno-politics.

Fulcrum of dissidence

Though she holds no political office, Kumaratunga has become a rallying point for a dissident group within the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

Two cabinet ministers, Mangala Samaraweera and Anura Bandaranaike, have openly criticised the incumbent President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, for giving ministerial portfolios to defectors from the opposition United National Party (UNP); downgrading his long standing supporters to accommodate rank outsiders; allowing his brothers to dictate to the government and the party; and turning a blind eye to corruption and violation of civil liberties.

Politics makes strange bedfellows. Grapevine has it that the Kumaratunga faction is poised to patch up with the UNP, and that the latter is ready to bury the hatchet to face the common foe - Rajapaksa.

Top sources in the UNP said that Kumaratunga had expressed regret for sacking UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe's government in 2004.

Exploiting the growing rift between Rajapaksa and the 22 member pro-LTTE TNA group in parliament, the UNP is having discussions with the latter for cooperation on the basis of a pro-ceasefire and pro-Tamil agenda.

The UNP and the SLFP dissidents are expected to take a pro-peace and pro-talks stand and work for greater understanding with the international community, which, in turn, could result in the international community supporting them.

In this context it is significant that 38 US Congressmen have urged President George Bush to send a high powered Special Envoy to Sri Lanka to kick start the peace process and check human rights violations.

But this could have an unintended result - the LTTE may gain political legitimacy both in the island and abroad.

First Published: Feb 07, 2007 16:34 IST