Norway envoy to discuss SL with India

Jon Hanssen-Bauer will arrive here on April 6 for his first trip to India after taking charge of the new responsibility.

india Updated: Apr 02, 2006 14:50 IST

Norway's new peace envoy to Sri Lanka will be here this week to discuss with Indian leaders the situation in the island in the run up to the next round of peace talks in Geneva on April 19-21.

Jon Hanssen-Bauer will arrivein New Delhion April 6, two days after he turns 54, for his first trip to India after taking charge of the new responsibility on March 17, with or without the company of his predecessor Erik Solheim.

Both Hanssen-Bauer and Solheim will be in Sri Lanka prior to that, meeting leaders of the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as well as representatives of the civil society and politicians.

Hanssen-Bauer will meet Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and probably National Security Advisor MK Narayanan in what would be a familiarisation trip and also to discuss the Sri Lankan situation in some depth.

Although no agenda has been laid out here, Hanssen-Bauer is expected to take up the issue of Tamil "paramilitaries" - a euphemism for anti-LTTE groups which the Tamil Tigers want to be disarmed by Colombo ahead of the Geneva meeting.

The LTTE's main grouse is vis-à-vis the group led by its breakaway commander Karuna, whose men are active in Sri Lanka's east particularly in Batticaloa and Amparai districts and have seriously undermined the Tigers.

With the Sri Lankan government giving enough indications that it is in no mood to act against Karuna, the issue has snowballed into a major hiccup that has the potential to derail the Geneva talks - and this is worrying the Norwegians.

Norway's aim will be to explore how best India can help in this direction.

Preceding Hanssen-Bauer to New Delhi will be Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Sri Lankan opposition leader who as prime minister signed a path-breaking ceasefire pact with the LTTE in February 2002.

Although India is not a member of the co-chairs to Sri Lanka's peace process that groups the US, the European Union, Japan and Norway, New Delhi is regularly kept informed by Norwegian facilitators about the developments.

India, which was the first country to outlaw the LTTE, keeps a close watch on Sri Lanka.

While making it clear that it will not get involved in Sri Lanka, New Delhi has declared it will never accept an independent Tamil state and it wants Colombo to devolve powers to the Tamils within a federal framework.

Solheim began visiting New Delhi in connection with Sri Lanka even before the 2002 pact. His visits went up as he started playing the role of a facilitator in the island, where two decades of violence has left thousands dead.

Despite its reservations on some issues, India has thrown its weight behind Norway and would like Oslo to continue be the facilitator between the Tigers and Colombo.

Hanssen-Bauer, who will also meet Indian ambassador in Colombo Nirupama Rao in Colombo, will be responsible for Norway's day-to-day work as facilitator of the peace process.

He will report to Solheim, who is the international development minister and will remain in charge of the peace process.

Hanssen-Bauer has worked with conflict resolution and peace processes in many countries both as a researcher and as a practitioner. He is known for his work in the Middle East. He joined the Norwegian foreign ministry in August 2005.

First Published: Apr 02, 2006 10:34 IST