India worried over Sri Lanka but has limitations: PM

May 9th, 2009 - 10:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Chennai, May 9 (IANS) India was “deeply concerned” over the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka but there were limits to what it could do to end the killings there, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here Saturday.

Speaking extensively on Sri Lanka at a press conference here, he said “all Indians” felt that “the Tamil people have been badly treated” in the island nation.

The prime minister, who had come here to visit ailing Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi, also referred to Nepal, the Taliban, the economy and the India-Pakistan dialogue but most questions related to Sri Lanka, which has become a major emotive issue in election-bound Tamil Nadu.

For the first time, Manmohan Singh admitted that there was a point beyond which India could not do much to halt the military offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that has resulted in thousands of deaths and suffering.

A journalist wanted to know why India could not influence Sri Lanka to end the war.

“We are living in very uncertain times,” Manmohan Singh replied. He added that India’s neighbours were sovereign nations and “sometimes we can hurt the wider national interests” while dealing with particular situations.

He went on: “I recognise that there is a problem in Sri Lanka with regard to the place of the Tamil population. (The Tamils) are entitled to lead a life of dignity as equal citizens… Having said that the people of Tamil Nadu recognise the limitation of dealing with another sovereign state.”

He reiterated India’s stand that there could be no military solution to the Sri Lankan conflict and that an eventual settlement had to come within a united Sri Lanka.

The need of the hour, he said, was to help bring out Tamil civilians trapped in the war zone, a coastal strip in Mullaitivu district still held by the LTTE.

The prime minister said India’s topmost concern was to provide relief and succour to the Tamils displaced from the war zone.

In an obvious reference to AIADMK chief J. Jayalalitha, he criticised Tamil Nadu politicians who have threatened to send the Indian Army to Sri Lanka to carve out an independent Tamil state.

“What is possible and what is not possible is a matter of speculation,” he said. “We are dealing with a sovereign country. It is not easy to march armies to a sovereign state. There is a certain thing called international law. I think these are known to all those making these tall promises.”

He denied that the Congress-led government was indifferent to the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

When it was pointed out to him that some people in Tamil Nadu were glorifying the LTTE, which is outlawed in India, Manmohan Singh said: “As far as India is concerned, the LTTE has so far been regarded a terrorist organisation and that is the policy of the government of India.”

The prime minister said the composite dialogue with Pakistan would only resume when Islamabad books the culprits responsible for the Mumbai terror attack of last year that killed over 170 people.

Speaking on other issues, the prime minister said India wished Pakistan well in its war against the Taliban, whose fundamentalist way of life “is not in the interest of Pakistan”.

Asked about his earlier critical comments about regional parties in the light of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to woo them, he said he had only made “a casual remark”.

He said he meant to say that when there were too many political parties, “it affects our ability grow fast. I do recognise that India is passing through a phase where regional parties are a fact of life. So our system has to come to accept that”.

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