Sri Lanka to take Indian aid to develop Kilinochchi (Lead)

January 14th, 2009 - 9:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Jan 14 (IANS) Sri Lanka will take help from India to develop Kilinochchi, the political hub of the Tamil Tigers the military has seized after 10 years, a minister said in remarks published Wednesday.The Indian aid to develop Kilinochchi, which for years served as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) administrative capital, would go on even as Colombo pursues its campaign against the Tigers, Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror.

He said the development of the area “would begin soon with the assistance of India” and more help would be sought from other countries in a bid to build long-neglected infrastructure in the war-torn region.

According to the Colombo-based Daily Mirror, Minister Abeywardene told a news conference Tuesday that preliminary talks on developing Kilinochchi took place Monday between Senior Presidential Adviser Basil Rajapaksa and India’s High Commissioner Alok Prasad.

Claiming that more discussions would take place soon, the minister said the intention of the Rajapaksa government was to develop the Tamil-majority north faster than the multi-racial east.

There was no official comment in New Delhi about the reported Indian offer to bring back life to Kilinochchi, which is now a largely deserted town.

A government source said Monday that restoring the infrastructure facilities in Kilinochchi such as road network and electricity supply were the prime needs.

Sri Lanka troops captured Kilinochchi town, 350 km north of here, Jan 2 after months of fierce fighting. The Tigers have withdrawn into their last remaining stronghold in Mullaitivu district.

The troops have also recaptured the 100-acre Elephant Pass garrison, taking full control of the 325-km-long A-9 Jaffna-Kandy supply route after 23 long years.

The source said that the government wanted to expand the A-9 highway into a six-track one right upto Jaffna town in the northern tip.

“We also want to re-establish the Colombo-Jaffna railway lines which remains active only upto Vauniya (250 km north of Colombo) since 1990,” the source said.

When fierce fighting for Kilinochchi took place in November last year, India sent 1,680 tonnes of relief assistance consisting of food, clothing and personnel hygiene items.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) distributed this to people trapped in the war zone.

India has provided $100 million credit line to help Sri Lanka develop the 150-km southern coastal railway link between Colombo and Matara.

“Although the agreement in this regard was reached last year, the disbursement of fund and the work of upgrading the railway link will start this year,” an Indian diplomat told IANS Wednesday.

India’s Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon is to arrive here Thursday on a two-day visit. It is not known if the development of Kilinochchi would be discussed.

Although official sources described his visit as routine, it comes days after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi urged New Delhi “to step up measures” to end to the conflict in Sri Lanka.

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