Top Lankan delegation to visit New Delhi for talks

October 19th, 2008 - 3:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghColombo, Oct 19 (IANS) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is sending a high-power delegation to New Delhi to hold talks after India expressed “serious concern” over the military conflict in the island nation, especially safety of civilians caught in the war between Tamil Tiger rebels and government troops.Although media reports said senior presidential advisor Basil Rajapaksa and presidential secretary Lalith Weeratunga were to undertake this visit, a top foreign ministry official said the date and composition of the delegation were yet to be finalised.

“There is a visit (by a top delegation) planned to New Delhi, but the details are yet to be finalised,” Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona told IANS Sunday.

Basil Rajapaksa, who is also the younger brother of President Rajapaksa, was not available for comment.

The development comes a day after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a telephone conversation with President Rajapaksa Saturday reiterated there was “no military solution” to the conflict and urged him “to start a political process for a peacefully negotiated political settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka”.

After the conversation between the two leaders, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollgama invited Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee “to undertake a visit to Sri Lanka at an early date”.

With 14 MPs of DMK, a key ally of his government and the ruling party of Tamil Nadu, handing over post-dated resignations over the situation in Sri Lanka, Manmohan Singh stressed that “the rights and the welfare of the Tamil community of Sri Lanka should not get enmeshed in the ongoing hostilities against the LTTE”.

This was the second message from the prime minister and the fourth from New Delhi to Colombo in the last four days over the situation in Sri Lanka that has stirred a political storm in India with MPs from Tamil Nadu threatening to resign if the violence against civilians was not stopped in Lanka.

The Indian leader also asked Rajapaksa to instruct the Sri Lankan Navy to desist from firing on Indian fishermen and reiterated that the killing of fishermen is “unacceptable”.

Briefing the Indian prime minister on the current situation in the island’s north, President Rajapaksa, on his part, has clarified that ongoing military operation was meant “to disarm the LTTE and restore democracy, peace and stability to the region”.

While indicating clearly that there would be no let up in his “fight to finish” military campaign against the LTTE, Rajapaksa has said that “the security forces are under strict instructions to avoid causing any civilian casualties, during this operation”.

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