Rajapakse, PM draw peace roadmap

Manmohan conveys the need for a negotiated settlement to SL's ethnic crisis, reports Nilova R Chaudhury.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2006 03:21 IST

With only Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon closeted in detailed discussions with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and his Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Wednesday, the message was clear.

India conveyedits anguish at the escalating spiral of violence that has gripped the island nation and urged an early return to the negotiating table, with an adequate devolution package for the ethnic Tamil minority of Sri Lanka.

In a meeting that lasted an hour, followed by a working lunch that included some officials, New Delhi conveyed the need for a political, negotiated settlement to the island nation's ethnic crisis, MEA spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

Despite what Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief V Prabhakaran said earlier this week, proclaiming the end of the ceasefire agreement, India is hopeful it can be persuaded to talk. But, for any negotiations to begin, the government in Colombo will have to announce a functional package, devolving powers to the Tamil population of that country.

Rajapakse, who reiterated the point that the LTTE was not representative of the Tamils, told the Indian government that the committee of MPs appointed by his government would be ready with a detailed devolution package shortly, maybe as early as December. Details of the package could become clearer by the time Mukherjee visits Colombo to issue invitations to Sri Lanka's leaders for the SAARC summit due in April 2007 in India.

In the detailed exchange of views today on the peace process, India spoke of its compulsions, with Indian Tamils particularly getting restive at the escalating violence, leading to more than a trickle of refugees into Tamil Nadu, and how joint maritime patrolling or a defence pact with Colombo was not possible at this juncture.

India's inability to mediate directly in the crisis, because it does not recognise one of the parties to the conflict, the LTTE, was also conveyed to Rajapakse. India, the first country to formally ban the LTTE, is unlikely to lift the ban in a hurry.

First Published: Nov 29, 2006 20:51 IST