Pro-LTTE delegation to meet Indian leaders this week

April 14th, 2009 - 10:19 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By M.R. Narayan Swamy
New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) A delegation of Tamil MPs from Sri Lanka allied with the Tamil Tigers will meet Indian government leaders here this week to discuss the plight of civilians trapped in a small area the cornered rebels still hold.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) team will arrive in the capital Wednesday, a day before India’s general elections start, for talks with National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

The TNA, frequently described as the political front of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), wants to discuss the condition of thousands of Tamil civilians locked in a chunk of territory in Mullaitivu district where the Tigers are waging their last battle.

“We are concerned with the lives of people there,” TNA team leader R. Sambanthan told IANS over telephone from Chennai from where he and his colleagues will take off. “We will talk about the dangerous situation for Tamils there. We will urge for action (by India).”

Sambanthan did not elaborate, saying he would address the media after his talks in New Delhi.

The TNA visit follows an open invitation Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh extended to all the Tamil and Muslim political parties who met him in Colombo in August last year when he went there for the SAARC summit.

India’s foreign secretary renewed the invitation during a trip to Colombo in January this year.

The TNA was apparently in two minds for some time on visiting India, a country the LTTE is unhappy with over charges that it is covertly helping Sri Lanka to wage war against the Tamil Tigers.

But with the military closing in on the LTTE, it is now left with only a small land area in Mullaitivu where a large number of civilians are trapped. Colombo accuses the LTTE of forcibly holding back the civilians as a shield while the Tigers say the people remain on their own free will.

In the process, however, the civilians have taken a huge beating in the conflict. Hundreds have been reportedly killed or seriously wounded. Those who fled the LTTE territory are kept in special camps.

Without making noise so as not to embarrass Colombo, India has been urging Sri Lanka to take extra care to avoid civilian casualties and to provide adequate relief to the affected population.

Sri Lanka has now declared a temporary truce to coincide with the Tamil and Sinhala New Year, but has refused to go for a long-term ceasefire saying that would help the LTTE to recoup and rearm.

On its part, India has deployed a medical team in the eastern district of Trincomalee where scores of civilian wounded have been treated. It has also provided medicines for them.

New Delhi’s complaint has been that while the TNA makes noises sympathetic to the LTTE, the MPs seem to be in no position to influence the guerrillas in any significant manner.

Having lost almost all the territory it had held since a Norway-sponsored ceasefire came into effect in February 2002, a depleted LTTE is doing what it can to prevent the military from overwhelming it.

And Colombo is counting how much international flak it can take and how many civilian casualties it can afford if it has go for an overwhelming assault on the last remaining LTTE base, now said to be around 20 sq km.

It is in this context that the TNA delegation is visiting India.

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