Thursday, May 25, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

India, USA oppose Tamil state
Rule out military intervention

NEW DELHI, May 24 (UNI) — India and the USA today strongly opposed the creation of a separate Tamil state to be carved out of Sri Lanka and firmly ruled out any military intervention to end the ethnic conflict in the island nation.

The two countries committed themselves to working for a peaceful political solution that would meet the aspirations of all communities in Sri Lanka.

This identity of views emerged after two rounds of talks between Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering. They covered the entire gamut of bilateral, regional and multilateral issues.

The two sides viewed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation with Mr Singh denying that the Indian Government had any link with the banned outfit.

Regarding to humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka for the evacuation of 30,000 soldiers from the Jaffna peninsula, the Foreign Secretary said that India was ready for humanitarian intervention only if a request was made .

However, he indicated that it was not possible at this juncture as the fighting was on in northern Sri Lanka.

Mr Pickering also expressed concern about the safety of civilians in the area and added his country would support any Indian initiative to ensure that civilians did not suffer.

He said the LTTE was a terrorist organisation and was involved in the assassination of several politicians. It was barred from raising funds in the USA.

Mr Pickering is also visiting Sri Lanka after his Pakistan trip to make an on-the-spot study of the security situation in the island nation.

The two sides also discussed the Norwegian initiative in Sri Lanka in the context of arrival of Norwegian facilitator Eric Solheim who briefed Mr Singh on his two days of talks with the Sri Lankan Government.

The two sides also discussed Kashmir with Mr Pickering expressing concern about turmoil and military activity in the region. He said the USA felt that the turmoil and military activity should not spread.

Asked about Fiji, he called for the restoration of the democratically-elected government. He said that change in the government through violence was no solution to the problem.

He said all efforts were required to immediately secure the release of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and other hostages, held captive for the past six days.

COLOMBO: In an apparent expression of displeasure over India’s offer to evacuate trapped troops from the Jaffna peninsula, Sri Lanka today said the announcement could affect the morale of its soldiers fighting Tamil rebels.

“We have asked for help, but not to withdraw from Jaffna,” a senior government official, who preferred to remain anonymous, said reacting to New Delhi’s decision that it was prepared to evacuate the troops provided Sri Lanka formally asked for it and proper conditions existed.

He said Sri Lanka had not so far sought Indian assistance to pull out troops from the peninsula and instead it had despatched more modern weapons to strengthen army’s resistance to LTTE’s attempts to recapture Jaffna.

The Indian position that it had kept its naval ships and air force transport planes ready to pull out the troops could also effect the morale of the forces which were fighting a do or die battle against the LTTE, the official said.

In the absence of an immediate formal official reaction from the Sri Lankan government, the official’s comments assumed significance as he sought to give an impression that the government had decided to carry on with the fighting, instead of pulling out its troops as demanded by the LTTE early this month and hand over the peninsula to the rebels.

During informal discussions, Sri Lankan officials expressed disappointment with the Indian decision, which they said would end up putting more pressure on Colombo as well as troops on the ground.

Ms Chandrika told leaders of various political parties here on May 15 that she preferred death to pull out the troops.

Amid reports of rebel attacks on Vavunativu army detachment and the air force base in Batticaloa, 356 km from Colombo, Sri Lanka today called for a joint initiative by Norway, India and the USA to help defuse the crisis in the Jaffna peninsula.

According to latest reports, fighting has spread to eastern Batticaloa, 175 km south-east of Jaffna town.

Government spokesman Ariya Rubasinghe admitted that the LTTE launched mortar attacks on the Vavunativu army detachment and the air force base in Batticaloa.

A grenade was thrown at the Norwegian Embassy building in the heart of Colombo by two unidentified motor-cycle borne men on Wednesday night. However, no damage was caused to the building.


Be ready to face any threat: Tipnis

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, May 24 (UNI) — Against the backdrop of a possible Indian involvement in troop evacuation in Sri Lanka, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal A. Y. Tipnis, today held a closed door meeting with southern station commanders and officers here.

Addressing a three-day station commanders’ conference at the headquarters of the Southern Air Command, he called upon them to be on “full alert to face any eventualities and threat.”

The air chief deliberated upon the challenges to external and internal security.

The meeting assumes significance in the wake of reports that India might assist evacuation of 30,000 stranded Sri Lankan troops from the Jaffna Peninsula. However, the edited version of air chief’s speech, circulated to the Press by the defence wing, did not state whether the Sri Lankan situation was discussed at the meeting.

According to reliable sources, the Southern Air Command was already on a vigil following the developments in the island nation. If a decision was taken by the Centre to evacuate the trapped soldiers, the airbase at Thiruvananthapuram would play a major role as it was one of the closest airports to Jaffna.

On his arrival at Shankhummugham airbase here this morning, the air chief, however, denied that his visit had anything to do with the Sri Lankan situation. “It’s a scheduled visit to attend the station commanders’ conference. It has been planned long back and don’t Read anything into it,” he told newspersons during a brief chat.

Asked whether the IAF was preparing itself to launch the massive evacuation operation, he said the IAF was never found wanting in preparation. “It is always prepared,” he added.

Though the Chief of the Air Staff had a scheduled three-day visit to the state, he cut short the visit to half day reportedly in view of the Sri Lankan development.

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