Sri Lanka assures India on safety of Tamils

October 26th, 2008 - 7:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Oct 26 (IANS) Sri Lanka Sunday assured India that it will ensure the safety of Tamils and hinted at allowing Indian aid to reach civilians caught in the military offensive against the Tamil Tigers. “We will look at the humanitarian needs, and every assurance has been given to India,” Basil Rajapaksa, senior adviser to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, told reporters here after talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Rajapaksa also told Mukherjee about the steps taken by the Sri Lankan government - which his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa heads - to ensure the safety and well being of Tamil civilians in the onslaught against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The military is trying to capture LTTE-held areas in the island’s north. The heavy fighting has dislocated tens of thousands and led to, according to Tamil politicians, food and medicine shortages in the region.

Rajapaksa, who arrived here Saturday evening, also met Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, both with Mukherjee as well as later with National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh.

“Yes, that issue was brought up and we will take a positive look on it,” he replied, when asked if Sri Lanka will allow medical aid from India to reach the island’s embattled northern region.

Mukherjee and Menon told Rajapaksa about the need to find a political solution to the decades-old ethnic feud, respecting the legitimate rights of the minorities, the Tamils included, an official source said.

The issue of finding practical arrangements to prevent incidents of firing by the Sri Lankan Navy on Indian fishermen also figured in the discussions.

Rajapaksa’s meeting with Narayanan lasted two and a half hours and was described as “a working lunch”.

Rajapaksa’s visit comes in the wake of growing concern in India about the plight of Tamil civilians caught in the military offensive in Sri Lanka.

With Tamil Nadu MPs creating a storm, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to the Sri Lankan president this month and asked him to ensure the safety of Tamil civilians at all costs.

External Affairs Minister Mukherjee later left for Chennai to brief Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi about the discussions with the Sri Lankan president’s envoy.

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