India to Sri Lanka: Killings of Tamil civilians must stop (Lead)

April 23rd, 2009 - 2:16 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) Expressing concern at the plight of civilians in Sri Lanka, India Wednesday asked the war-torn nation to ensure that the killings of Tamil civilians are stopped and underlined that it will do “all it can to also ameliorate the humanitarian crisis”.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a special meeting late Wednesday night to discuss the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Sri Lanka. The meeting was attended by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

“We are very unhappy at the continued killing of innocent Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka. These killings must stop,” Mukherjee said in a statement after the meeting.

“The Sri Lankan government has a responsibility to protect its own citizens. And the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) must stop its barbaric attempt to hold civilians hostage,” he said.

“There is no military solution to this ongoing humanitarian crisis, and all concerned should recognise this fact,” he said.

Mukherjee reiterated the government’s view that “the only lasting solution will come from political efforts to address the real concerns of the Tamil people, giving them lives of dignity within the Sri Lankan mainstream”.

“India will work to achieve this goal, and will do all it can to also ameliorate the humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict,” he said.

Mukherjee said he will be speaking to many of his counterparts around the world to join India in this effort.

Sri Lankan presidential adviser Basil Rajapaksa, brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is expected to be in New Delhi Thursday morning to brief the Indian leadership on the situation in Sri Lanka, said highly placed sources.

The meeting decided to provide relief to Tamil refugees who are heading to India, the sources said.

It also decided to send more food and medical relief for starving and sick Tamil civilians who have managed to flee from the no-fire zone, they said.

Concerned over the plight of civilians trapped in shrunken war zone, India has been pressing the Sri Lankan government to “pause” the military operation to enable the civilians to move from the no-fire zone to safe areas.

The number of distraught Tamil civilians fleeing the war zone crossed the 100,000 figure Wednesday, said Sri Lankan authorities.

The meeting was held in the backdrop of an uproar in Tamil Nadu over the worsening humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, whose DMK party is a key member of the Manmohan Singh government, has called for a shutdown in the state Thursday to protest against “atrocities on civilians”.

Smaller parties in the state have warned of bloodshed in Tamil Nadu if LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran came to harm in the military onslaught.

India has urged Colombo to extend all facilities to the UN and countries seeking to help in the evacuation of civilians from the war zone.

Earlier in the day, Mukherjee urged Sri Lanka to ensure that relief material India has sent to the country is distributed through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Congress, that leads India’s ruling coalition, also urged Sri Lanka to declare ceasefire to resolve the humanitarian crisis and allow Tamil civilians to move out of the conflict zone.

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