India asks Lanka to puruse political, not ‘military’ solution (Lead)

October 17th, 2008 - 12:37 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) With the situation in Sri Lanka stirring a political storm in Tamil Nadu, India Thursday sent a sternly-worded message to Colombo asking it to shun “military means” and pursue a political settlement that respects the human rights of minorities in the island nation. “We are particularly worried about the humanitarian effect of the continuing conflict on civilians who have been caught up in circumstances not of their making,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement here.

”It is essential that their rights be respected, that they be immune from attacks, and that food and other essential supplies be allowed to reach them,” Mukherjee said while expressing India’s grave concern over the situation in Sri Lanka.

A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked Sri Lanka to de-escalate hostilities and asked it to pursue negotiated political settlement, Mukherjee again reinforced New Delhi’s message in the wake of the threat of Tamil Nadu MPs to resign en masse if the violence against innocent Tamils is not stopped in Sri Lanka.

“We have consistently made it clear that a return to normalcy cannot be brought about by military means or battlefield victories,” Mukherjee underlined.

“What is required in Sri Lanka is a peacefully negotiated political settlement which allows each community to realise its own potential within the framework of a united Sri Lanka,” he said.

In a clear warning to the powers-that-be in Colombo, Mukherjee underscored that the Indian government would “do all in its power to achieve this goal and to ameliorate the humanitarian conditions in Sri Lanka”.

With a view to assuaging anxieties of Tamil Nadu MPs, Mukherjee emphasised that New Delhi has made several representations to the government of Sri Lanka at several levels.

“The other issue which is engaging the government’s effort is the harassment and killing of Indian fishermen in neighbouring areas which must cease forthwith. The government will be taking steps to ensure this,” he said.

Earlier, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner C.R. Jayasinghe went on a damage-control exercise, saying Colombo will keep in mind New Delhi’s sensitivities while dealing with the situation.

“What I can say is that whatever the (Indian) prime minister has said will be regarded as most important by Sri Lanka,” the envoy said here while stressing that India was “very dear” to the people of Sri Lanka.

“Whatever the problems that may come up it is the intention of the people and the government of Sri Lanka to address any of these issues keeping in mind the best interests of the bilateral relationship,” the envoy said on the sidelines of a function here.

He rejected any perception of the relationship between the two neighbours coming under a strain.

Manmohan Singh’s remarks Wednesday came in the wake of an all-party meeting in Tamil Nadu Tuesday, convened by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, warning the centre that all MPs from the state would resign if the government failed to halt the war in the island nation within two weeks.

“India has always believed that there can’t be a military victory in Sri Lanka. We have always believed that the situation in Sri Lanka required a negotiated political settlement that respects human rights of the Tamil minorities,” the prime minister had stressed.

Colombo has, however, chosen not to comment on the resolution adopted by the all-party meet in Chennai on the situation in Sri Lanka, saying it was an “internal matter” of India.

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