President Mahinda Rajapaksa is to send two emissaries to New Delhi this week for high-level talks on matters of concern expressed by the Government of India.
It will comprise Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and presidential advisor Basil Rajapaksa.
The visit comes in the wake of an Indian request to Sri Lanka to formulate a power sharing political package to end the ethnic conflict.
India has said that a military solution is not the answer. The Indian position was reiterated on Friday both in New Delhi and in Colombo. India’s Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon summoned Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner Romesh Jayasinghe to reiterate his Government’s position.
In addition, the Indian High Commissioner Alok Prasad also called on Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama to deliver the same message.
The two-member delegation is to meet, among others, National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Menon.
The Sunday Times learns that the delegation will assure that the Rajapaksa administration is committed to implementing a political package for the ethnic conflict.
The ongoing military offensive, they are to explain, is to combat terrorism by Tiger guerrillas.
The delegation is also to seek a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. President Rajapaksa spoke on the telephone with Mr. Singh yesterday and invited External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherji to visit Colombo. See below for statements issued by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s office in New Delhi.
Matters relating to the delegation’s visit are now being discussed, Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona told The Sunday Times. He declined to elaborate. On Wednesday Prime Minister Singh expressed “serious concern” over the situation in Sri Lanka.
He said it did not call for military victory but a negotiated political settlement that respected Sri Lankan sovereignty and human rights of Tamils.
The Lankan version
President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday reiterated that the security forces are under strict instructions to avoid causing any civilian casualties during military operations.
The President reiterated his position during a telephone conversation with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.
|President Mahinda Rajapaksa
The statement said President Rajapaksa briefed the Indian leader on the current situation in the North, “where the security forces are engaged in an operation to disarm the LTTE and restore democracy, peace and stability to the region. “
“He also informed Dr. Singh that Sri Lanka is mindful and appreciative of the concerns of India regarding the situation in the North, and aware of the context in which these matters have been raised,” the statement said.
Consequent to this discussion, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has invited the Indian Minister of External Affairs, Pranab Mukherjee to undertake a visit to Sri Lanka at an early date, the statement said.
It added that both leaders agreed to maintain a dialogue at a high political level, in keeping with the longstanding and excellent bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka.
The Indian version
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed his “deep concern” to President Mahinda Rajapaksa over what he called the “deteriorating humanitarian situation in the north of Sri Lanka, especially the plight of the civilians caught in the hostilities,” it was announced yesterday.
A statement from the Media Unit of the Prime Minister’s office in New Delhi came after President Rajapaksa telephoned Premier Singh. It said:
|Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
“He [The Prime Minister] said that the safety and the security of these civilians must be safeguarded at all costs. The Prime Minister also said that, in order to address the humanitarian situation, continued and uninterrupted relief supplies be ensured for the Internally Displaced Persons. President Rajapaksa assured the Prime Minister that all necessary measures are being taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.”
“Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh further mentioned that the rights and the welfare of the Tamil community of Sri Lanka should not get enmeshed in the on-going hostilities against the LTTE.
“He reiterated that there was no military solution to the conflict and urged the President to start a political process for a peacefully negotiated political settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.
“He also emphasised the need to nurture the democratic process in the Eastern Province.
“The Prime Minister asked President Rajapaksa to instruct the Sri Lankan Navy to desist from firing on Indian fishermen and reiterated that killing of fishermen is unacceptable. They agreed to work on practical arrangements to prevent such incidents.”