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Indian mediation in Lanka

President Mahinda Rajapaksa told a Lankan Tamil daily that India need not intervene directly to solve the ethnic crisis in the island nation, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2006 17:43 IST

In an interesting comment, which comes in the wake of a vociferous demand in Tamil Nadu that India should intervene in Sri Lanka's ethnic crisis, the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that India need not play a direct role in the peace process in his country.

In an interview to the Chennai-based Daily Thanthi reproduced by Thinakkuralin Colombo on Wednesday, Rajapaksa said that it would be enough if India carried on a global campaign against the collection of funds and arms by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"I understand India's predicament in regard to the Sri Lankan problem. India has some constraints because there is a huge population of Tamils there."

"But to solve the problem, India need not intervene directly. It will be enough if it carries out a global campaign against the collection of funds and arms by the LTTE," he said.

"There is no room for tolerance of terrorism," he added.

The president laid more emphasis on the development of economic and business ties between India and Sri Lanka than on New Delhi's participation in the peace process.

"I want India to play a leading role in the development of Sri Lanka's economy and in promoting business relations.

It is in India's interest in having peace and economic development in Sri Lanka. Hence, in the economic field, the two countries should act jointly," he said.

"There is a long history of cultural relations between India and Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans believe in India," the President pointed out.

Devolution package in three months

On the devolution of power to the Tamil minority in his country, which is the crux of the ethnic problem, the Sri Lankan President said that the committees that he had appointed to draft a constitutional reform package would be submitting their reports in three months' time.

"We are determined to devolve power to the Northern and Eastern Provinces. We are examining various models, including the Indian model (of federalism).

We are ready to talk about the Panchayati Raj system which devolves power to the villages," he said.

More Tamils live outside North-East among Sinhalas

"There is another truth which you must know. Sixty per cent of the Tamils live outside and the Northern and Eastern provinces, in Colombo and in the plantations in the hills," he said, hinting that too much emphasis was being put on the problems of the Tamils of the North and East.

"The representatives of the plantation Tamils are part of the government as ministers," he said.

"Furthermore, some of the richest people in Sri Lanka are Tamils. Some big organisations are run by Tamils.

Tamils are among the leading doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers here. Sri Lanka is proud of their achievements," Rajapaksa said.

On the frequent complaints from Tamil Nadu fishermen that they were being fired on by the Sri Lankan Navy, the President said that the LTTE often came in boats with Indian flags on them to avoid detection, and this called for action.

But he had instructed the navy and other authorities to be humane towards genuine Indian fishermen who might have strayed into Sri Lankan waters, Rajapaksa said.

First Published: Nov 15, 2006 16:28 IST