No decision on Mukherjee’s visit to Colombo yet: Menon

October 20th, 2008 - 9:40 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 20 (IANS) Stressing on a political solution to the ethnic violence in Sri Lanka, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon Monday said the government will take a decision on External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukerjee’s visit to Colombo after a likely visit by a Sri Lankan delegation to New Delhi. “No dates have been set. Nothing is set right now,” Menon told reporters when asked about dates for Mukherjee’s Colombo visit in the wake of escalating military conflict between the Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tigers that has severely affected Tamil civilians in that country.

Menon added that the government will decide on Mukhejee’s visit after a likely visit by a high-level delegation from Sri Lanka to New Delhi this week.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollgama had invited Mukherjee “to undertake a visit to Sri Lanka at an early date”, said a statement issued in Colombo after the telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Saturday.

“What we see in Sri Lanka is a humanitarian crisis that affects Tamilian civilian population. There is the larger issue of settling the ethnic conflict and bringing peace to the country,” Menon said when asked about the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Sri Lanka.

“It can’t be done militarily,” Menon said while underlining India’s advocacy of a political settlement of the decades-long ethnic conflict within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.

He, however, added that India is working through the UN and the Red Cross to reach relief and medical supplies to the areas in northern Sri Lanka that have been affected by the biggest military offensive lunched by the Sri Lankan government to crush the LTTE.

With 15 MPs of DMK, a key ally of his government and the ruling party of Tamil Nadu, handing over post-dated resignations over the situation in Sri Lanka, Manmohan Singh had stressed Saturday that “the rights and the welfare of the Tamil community of Sri Lanka should not get enmeshed in the ongoing hostilities against the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)”.

According to media reports in Sri Lanka, senior presidential advisor Basil Rajapaksa, younger brother of President Rajapaksa, and presidential secretary Lalith Weeratunga will visit India this week to address New Delhi’s concerns.

The date and composition of the delegation are yet to be finalised.

There is a visit (by a top delegation) planned to New Delhi, but the details are yet to be finalised, Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona told IANS Sunday.

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