Changes needed in Sri Lanka to ensure harmony between communties: US expert

January 31st, 2009 - 4:29 pm ICT by ANI  

New Delhi, Jan.31 (ANI): Former U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Teresita C. Schaffer, has said that the government in Colombo would need to initiate changes in the way it manages the affairs of island-nation to restore harmony between its several communities.
Schaffer, who is now the Director of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told ANI in an interview that while Sri Lanka has made progress under a regime headed by President Mahinda Rajapakse, major political changes still needed to be undertaken to facilitate an end to the over two-decade long ethnic conflict.
“The Sri Lankan Army has made more progress in the past two months than in the previous ten years. They have taken control of the territory that Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had controlled. They seemed to have pushed back the LTTE. The only way that there will be peace in Sri Lanka is if they have a political settlement,” said Schaffer.
She was giving her reactions to the 48-hour-long safe passage deadline given to Lankan Tamils by the Sri Lankan Government, even as the nation’’s troops continue their campaign to corner LTTE in a 300 square km area.
According to the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 250,000 civilians, including Tamils, are trapped in the fighting. Commenting on relations between Pakistan and India, Schaffer said she was skeptical about the composite dialogue between the two being restored any time soon.
“Well I think India- Pakistan relationship are in a difficult period now. India suffered greatly during the attacks on Mumbai Pakistan continues to look on India as the danger, and they haven”t really resolved the question of what happened in Mumbai and whether Pakistan’’s response is considered satisfactory by the Government of India,” Schaffer said.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have exchanged heated rhetoric since the Mumbai attacks that killed 179 people in November 2008.
India says Pakistani militants who must have had support from Pakistani state agencies carried them out. Pakistan denies that and says it will cooperate with Indian authorities.
Insofar as the new administration in the United States was concerned, she said the focus would be first be on addressing the crises at home, particularly getting the American economy back on track, before addressing international challenges.
“I think the Obama administration’’s first priority will be the economy. I think they believe, and I believe, that getting the US economy working reasonably is the foundation for any kind of effective US foreign policy,” said Schaffer.
Schaffer said international tensions like the Sri Lankan issue and Israel’’s attack on Gaza, would not divert Obama’’s concentration from the global economic crisis. (ANI)

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