Basil will handle Indian affairs

By Our Diplomatic Editor

Senior Presidential Advisor and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa will continue to oversee matters relating to Indo-Sri Lanka relations. He undertook this task during the tenure of the previous Government where Rohitha Bogollagama was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Sunday Times learns he will continue the role whilst G.L. Peiris remains the Minister of External Affairs.

Mr. Rajapaksa was scheduled to leave for New Delhi today for talks to lay the groundwork for the official visit by President Mahinda Rajapaksa beginning June 8.

However, a presidential ban on travel by ministers in view of the current flood crisis had held him back. The President wants all ministers to attend to the needs of the people in their electorates.

A delayed departure to New Delhi by Mr. Rajapaksa has become difficult due to the non-availability of Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao. She is due to leave for Russia on May 24, and then for China and the United States. She would be back in New Delhi just a day or two ahead of President Rajapaksa's arrival.

In the light of this, an official delegation headed by Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe will leave for New Delhi today. He will meet Ms. Rao and other officials to discuss about issues President Rajapaksa will discuss with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

External Affairs Ministry sources said yesterday that President Rajapaksa would brief Premier Singh on the measures his new UPFA Government would take to address Tamil grievances.

That includes the implementation of the 13th Amendment and the creation of a second chamber or Senate. He will also brief Premier Singh on the progress in the re-settlement of Internally Displaced Persons after the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas last year.

The same sources said India's latest request to open a consulate in Jaffna -- a request which has been made last year to the External Affairs Ministry -- will also be discussed.

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