India asks Sri Lanka to stop military offensive against Tamils (Lead)October 17th, 2008 - 9:12 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi/Colombo, Oct 17 (IANS) With the political temperature rising in Tamil Nadu over the situation in Sri Lanka, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon Friday summoned Sri Lankan High Commissioner C.R. Jayasinghe and asked Colombo to “take steps” to stop the violence that has severely affected Tamil civilians in the island nation. “India expressed grave concerns over the ongoing violence in Sri Lanka. He asked Colombo to take concrete steps to stop the military offensive in Sri Lanka,” an official source said after Menon summoned Jayasinghe to South Block, the seat of the external affairs ministry, to register India’s unhappiness with the situation in Sri Lanka.
This is the third message from New Delhi to Colombo in the last three days.
With Tamil Nadu MPs threatening to resign en masse if the violence against innocent Tamils is not stopped in Sri Lanka, Menon again impressed upon Colombo to pursue a negotiated political solution, rather than continue with military means to settle the decades-old ethnic feud.
Menon also asked Colombo to ensure that the harassment and killing of Indian fishermen in neighbouring areas are stopped forthwith.
Menon’s decision to summon the Sri Lankan envoy comes a day after President Mahinda Rajapaksa told The Hindu newspaper that his government was committed to finding “a just and enduring political solution” and there were “no military solutions to political questions”.
This shows New Delhi’s growing impatience with Colombo over the way the Sri Lankan government has launched its biggest ever offensive against the Tamil Tigers, leading to much hardship and suffering for civilians caught in the crossfire, the source said.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had sent a stern message to Colombo Thursday asking it to shun “military means” and pursue a political settlement that respects the human rights of minorities in the island nation.
“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.
In a clear warning to Colombo, Mukherjee said the Indian government would “do all in its power to achieve this goal and to ameliorate the humanitarian conditions in Sri Lanka”.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday had asked Sri Lanka to de-escalate hostilities and pursue a negotiated political settlement.
In Colombo, India’s High Commissioner Alok Prasad met Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and conveyed New Delhi’s “concerns” over the situation in the north and east.
“The discussion centred on current issues pertaining to Indo-Sri Lanka bilateral relations in the context of developments in the North and the East of Sri Lanka. Concerns being expressed in this regard in India were conveyed to Minister Bogollagama by the High Commissioner,” the foreign ministry here said in a statement.
Bogollagama responded that Sri Lanka was “fully conscious of the concerns being expressed and understand the context in which these matters are being raised”.
“The minister assured that in the spirit of existing excellent bilateral relations, Sri Lanka intends to further discuss these issues bilaterally to address those concerns. It was indicated that bilateral consultation process in this regard could continue at appropriate levels,” the ministry statement said.