Krishna in Sri Lanka, to push for devolution (Lead)

November 25th, 2010 - 11:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Nov 25 (IANS) External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna arrived here Thursday on a three-day visit during which India is expected to push for the devolution of powers and renew a $1.7 billion-pledge in the form of loans and aid for development of the war-ravaged northern Sri Lanka.

Pushing for an early resettlement of the displaced Tamil civilians, Krishna said India would “certainly propose to Indian investors to take a look at Sri Lanka as one of the favourable investment destination”.

“At one point of time it (the number of displaced civilians) was around 300,000 and over a period of time it has come down and now our assessment is there are about 17,000-20,000 IDPs in the camps,” said Krishna, who was received by his Lankan counterpart G.L. Pieris at the airport here.

“And we have taken a decision to build 50,000 houses to rehabilitate the IDPs, and the first 1,000 houses are being constructed and we would like to see and hasten the process of these constructions,” he said.

Krishna will launch Indian consulates in Jaffna, where Tamil militancy began in the 1970s, and Hambantota, located in the Sinhalese south about 240 km from Colombo.

Indian officials disclosed that India will pledge $1.7 billion in the form of loans and aid to be spent in the next three years on various projects, including the modernisation the Kankasanthurai Harbour in Jaffna.

Krishna will hold bilateral talks with Peiris with whom he will co-chair the 7th meeting of the joint commission. He will call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa and a host of Lankan leaders.

In his interactions with Sri Lankan leaders, Krishna is also expected to press for a “meaningful devolution”, an official said.

Sources said that Krishna will remind Colombo of its pledge during Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi in June this year and push for a meaningful devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment in the Sri Lankan Constitution, to create conditions conducive for a lasting political settlement.

The inauguration of a pilot project of 1,000 house units for internally displaced Tamil civilians and rail links in Sri Lanka’s north, which was the main war theatre, will be some of other highlights of the visit.

The speedy resettlement of the 20,000 IDPs, who continue to remain in camps, 18 months after the end of the armed conflict will also be an important issue during the discussions.

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