India to advocate Sri Lanka 'consensus' to Ranil | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

India to advocate Sri Lanka 'consensus' to Ranil

None | ByMR Narayan Swamy (IANS), New Delhi
Mar 31, 2006 10:57 AM IST

India will urge Lankan opposition leader to work for a 'southern consensus' to give a push to the island's peace process.

India will urge Sri Lankan opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to work for a 'southern consensus' to give a push to the island's peace process when he comes here on Sunday to meet Indian leaders.

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The former prime minister, who heads the United National Party (UNP), will arrive on Sunday night on the invitation of the external affairs ministry and spend two days meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

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Wickremesinghe, who narrowly lost the presidential elections in November to Mahinda Rajapaksa, will also meet Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the ruling coalition's main prop.

Wickremesinghe's trip assumes significance in view of growing talk in Colombo about a possible 'national government' that might bring together Sri Lanka's two main political parties: UNP and Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

India is determined not to get involved in Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict in any manner but it favours a consensus among the mainly Sinhalese parties so that the now wobbling peace process does not get derailed.

New Delhi also desires that besides the UNP and SLFP, which between them have always ruled Sri Lanka, the Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP) should also agree on the broad parameters of the peace process.

Indian officials are aware of the many differences that plague these parties. While the UNP and SLFP appear to be in broad agreement over some key issues, all its leaders are not on the same wavelength. The Sihalese-Marxist JVP bitterly opposes Norway's role as the facilitator.

It was Wickremesinghe who signed the path-breaking memorandum of understanding with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran in February 2002 that halted active fighting between the two sides.

But over a period of time, he was accused of pandering to the Tigers. In November 2003 then president Chandrika Kumaratunga sacked his government leading to fresh parliamentary elections in April 2004 that his UNP lost.

In November last year, Wickremesinghe lost the presidential elections to Rajapaksa after the LTTE ordered Tamils to boycott the elections dubbing both as Sinhalese politicians who would not pay heed to Tamil aspirations.

Since then, Rajapaksa has slowly distanced himself from the hardline JVP, fuelling talk that the SLFP and UNP might join hands to give a very badly needed national thrust to the peace process.

This, however, is easier said than done.

India has been arguing for an all-encompassing 'southern consensus' for some time. Wickremesinghe's visit will be utilized to reiterate the message to a Sri Lankan leader who, it is felt, still commands sizeable support among voters.

New Delhi also desires that the mainly Sinhalese parties should forge closer understanding with moderate Tamils opposed to the LTTE.

On Wednesday, emissaries of Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe met in Colombo amid fresh JVP calls to oust Norway from the Sri Lankan peace process.

India is also aware of the complexities governing the peace process, including the differences between the LTTE and Colombo that have sharpened since they met in Geneva in February. Another round of talks is due in April.

The LTTE wants the Sri Lankan government to disarm rival Tamil groups it says are 'paramilitaries'. Colombo denies any links with the main anti-LTTE group led by former Tiger commander Karuna.

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