Monday, May 8, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Tipnis in Lanka on 5-day visit
Jaswant doesn’t rule out mediation

COLOMBO, May 7 (PTI) — Amid speculation about India gearing up to provide humanitarian assistance to over 27,000 beleaguered Sri Lankan soldiers in the northern Jaffna peninsula, Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal a y Tipnis arrived here today on a five-day official visit.

Air Marshal Tipnis, flew in by a special IAF plane and was received at the airport here by his Sri Lankan counterpart Air Marshal Jayalath Weerakodi and senior officials from the Indian High Commission with ceremonial honour.

Despite speculation over the timing of his visit, which coincided with heavy military losses suffered by the Sri Lankan army in Jaffna at the hands of the LTTE, High Commission officials here said his visit was routine in nature and the IAF chief was reciprocating a long- standing invitation by the Sri Lankan Government.

During his stay here, Air Marshal Tipnis is scheduled to hold discussions with Deputy Defence Minister Gen Anurudha Rawatte, Defence Secretary Chandrananda De Silva, newly appointed Defence Chief of Staff Lieut-Gen Rohan Daluwatte and commanders of the army, navy and the air force.

He may also have an unscheduled meeting with President Chandrika Kumaratunga before his departure on May 12. The Indian air chief was scheduled to visit the Sri Lankan air force (SLAF) base at north central Anuradhapura where an an-32 hired by the SLAF crashed, killing over 40 passengers and crew.

Meanwhile, a Reuters report said Sri Lanka’s air force bombed Tamil Tiger guerrilla positions to blunt a rebel advance on the northern Jaffna peninsula. The state-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation reported the air force had bombed around Elephant Pass, the peninsula’s gateway held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh in an interview on Sunday night on Star TV said India would consider playing the role of a mediator only if it was approached by the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE to do so.

The minister said India was already playing a “pro-active” role on the diplomatic front and was closely monitoring developments in the island-nation where the LTTE’s recent offensive inflicted heavy casualties on troops of the Sri Lankan army.

He again ruled out military intervention in the Jaffna peninsula to rescue over 35,000 soldiers trapped there.

Mr Jaswant Singh clarified that the Sri Lankan Government had not sought India’s help for airlifting or rescuing the soldiers.

Referring to the Sri Lankan Government’s decision to approach Pakistan for help, the minister said: “We have seen these reports and are in touch with the Sri Lankan Government”.

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