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Prod Sri Lanka, LTTE to work for peace: Expert

An Indian scholar has urged the international community to push both the Govt and the LTTE to reach a negotiated settlement.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2006 12:29 IST

An Indian scholar has urged the international community to push both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger guerrillas to reach a negotiated settlement of the dragging ethnic conflict.

Nevertheless, nothing is likely to work in the island nation unless the two sides "decide to move forward keeping in mind the interest of the people", said N Manoharan of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (ICPS) here.

In an assessment of the situation in Sri Lanka in 2005 and the prospects for this year, Manoharan said in a paper at an ICPS conference on Friday that "serious efforts (would) have to be made towards restarting the peace process".

"Talks at Geneva in February 2006 (was) a good beginning but there is a long way to go," he said.

"The international community has to increase its pressure on both sides to go in for negotiated settlement. It should also tighten its noose on the arms flow to the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).

"What is required is a sustained peace process... Slow and steady but irreversible progress would see a final settlement one day."

Manoharan's comments come ahead of the second round of meeting scheduled in Geneva April 19-21 between the Sri Lankan government and LTTE.

But the LTTE has warned that it would reconsider its participation in Geneva if Colombo failed to carry out its promise made in Switzerland in February to disarm the anti-Tiger Tamil groups called "paramilitaries".

Manoharan warned that lack of mutual trust between Colombo and the LTTE was a major cause for concern.

"Working confidence building measures are therefore necessary. Some such arrangements worked during six rounds of talks between (the earlier Sri Lankan) government and the LTTE during 2002 and 2003.

"Present rehabilitation programmes for those affected by tsunami offer a good opportunity. But the parties have so far failed to use it. It is not too late, however."

Manoharan emphasized the need for the LTTE to stop killing its rivals and for the government to end its connivance with the "paramilitaries", particularly the group led by former LTTE regional commander Karuna.

He also underlined that some kind of an interim arrangement was necessary in the war-hit northeast of Sri Lanka to address the immediate needs of the affected people.

Manoharan, however, noted that there was intense competition between the LTTE and the government in military, political and diplomatic domains.

"This would invariably create new 'security dilemmas' for each side. Keeping these things in mind, the Norwegians and the international community have to work out a new agenda for talks."

He went on: "Given the present scenario, prospects for peace in Sri Lanka are mixed: (this) year may witness progress in the peace process or the present stalemate may be pushed back and forth of the threshold point of tolerance...

"However, given the fact of war building exercises going on in both sides, hawks on either side could try and gain upper hand to give the war option a chance.

"But neither would try to blink first fearing (the) wrath of the international community. If hostilities break out, it would be devastating to the island.

"The best option available for the government, therefore, is to weaken the LTTE as much as possible making best use of anti-LTTE Tamil militia. There is also expectation that the LTTE might face further splits for various reasons."

In contrast, the LTTE would counter this by decimating the "paramilitaries" and "at the same time appealing to the international community to reign on the government.

"The LTTE also would like to prolong the present 'no war' situation but at the same time using the deterrence of resuming war. So this stalemate of negative peace afflicted with violence is expected to continue at least for now."

First Published: Apr 08, 2006 11:55 IST