Indian visit leads to speculation in Colombo mediaJune 22nd, 2008 - 6:36 pm ICT by IANS
By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, June 22 (IANS) A two-day visit by an Indian delegation led by National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and their deliberations here led to wild speculation in the Sri Lankan media Sunday. The decision by both countries to remain tightlipped on the visit has made newspapers wonder aloud the reason behind the Indian mission.
The speculation about the reasons in the media range from security arrangements for the upcoming SAARC summit to perceived efforts by India to bail out the Tamil Tigers.
The Indian delegation, including Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa Saturday and met senior officials including Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as well as the army and navy commanders.
The Indians also met R. Sampanthan, the parliamentary group leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which is allied with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and Minister of Social Services Douglas Devananda, who heads the anti-LTTE Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP).
One common strand in the Colombo-based media was that the visit was linked to the “national issue”, or the ethnic conflict, in addition to the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Under the headline “Indians here because of Mullaitivu?” the Lakbimanews weekly speculated that the trip was related to the reported comments by army chief Lt.Gen. Sarath Fonseka that “the Sri Lankan Army will capture LTTE leader (Velupillai) Prabhakaran alive”.
“In other words, the rapid thrust (by troops) into the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) heartland Mullaithivu has caused the Indian delegation to rush to Sri Lanka to avert a rout of the LTTE,” the report quoted unnamed sources as saying.
“Analysts were abuzz with deja vu comparisons with 1987, when the Indian government engineered (food) drops over Jaffna in the face of the imminent success for Sri Lankan troops in (Jaffna’s) Vadamarachchi campaign,” the Lakbimanews said in its lead story.
Quoting another unnamed analyst, it reported that the Indian delegation might have come “purely to assuage Tamil feelings which always run high in Tamil Nadu when there are favourable developments for the army in the Sri Lankan war front”.
But another weekly, The Sunday Leader, known to reflect the views of the main opposition United National Party (UNP), reported that the Indian delegation had conveyed “a strong message” from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“The Indian government Friday urged the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to speedily submit a viable devolution package within a united Sri Lanka to resolve the ethnic crisis and reiterated New Delhi’s position that there was no military solution to the conflict,” it said in its lead story.
“The Sunday Leader further learns the Indian delegation had also expressed India’s security concerns on the government’s tilt towards China and Pakistan on military matters,” it said.
While the state-run Sunday Observer newspaper reported that the Indians came for talks “on the country’s situation, the SAARC summit and the safety of the delegates”, the independent Sunday Times said “the visit was largely secretive, so is the wide ranging issues they discussed”.
“That the Congress-led government had tasked three of its highest-ranking officials - two of them dealing with defence/security related issues and the other on matters of foreign policy - to fly to Colombo to convey New Delhi’s concerns assume greater significance,” it said on its editorial page.
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