India announces more aid for Sri Lanka’s war-hit civilians (Lead)

January 16th, 2009 - 8:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Jan 16 (IANS) Coinciding with the visit of Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, India Friday announced a second set of humanitarian aid for the war-affected civilians in Sri Lanka’s north.The Indian high commission said in a brief statement that India would “continue to work with Sri Lanka in meeting the humanitarian needs of the civilian population” in the country’s north.

“India has decided on a second installment of such assistance amounting to approximately Rs.40 million (Sri Lankan),” the statement said.

Accordingly, a consignment of medicines was handed over by Menon to senior presidential advisor Basil Rajapaksa at a simple ceremony here.

Late last year India sent food and other relief goods for civilians and those displaced by the war in Sri Lanka amid demands from Tamil Nadu political parties who urged New Delhi to help end the fighting.

The 1,700 tonnes of 80,000 ready-to-use family packs containing food, clothing and personal hygiene items have since been distributed.

Menon, who arrived here late Thursday, is expected to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa Saturday in the central hill town of Kandy and discuss issues of bilateral interest and exchange views on the situation in the Sri Lankan north.

The military is continuing to advance in Sri Lanka’s north to dislodge the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from its last remaining stronghold of Mullaitivu district.

A foreign ministry official said that Menon is also scheduled to hold talks with Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

He is also expected to meet opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and leaders of key Tamil and Muslim parties.

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

The state-run Daily News under the headline “Welcome” carried the photograph of Menon on its front page, highlighting the importance of his visit in Colombo Friday and Saturday.

The government last week said it planned to develop Kilinochchi, the former political headquarters of the LTTE, with Indian assistance. It is not known if this would be discussed during Menon’s visit.

But the radical Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has alleged that the “ulterior motive” of Menon’s visit would be “to force Sri Lanka to evolve a political solution to the national question (by) devolving power beyond the 13th amendment to the constitution”.

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