Monday, June 12, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Jaswant reassures Lanka

COLOMBO, June 11 (UNI, PTI) — India is understood to have conveyed its “position and perception” on the Sri Lankan crisis and stressed the need for an early political settlement to the ethnic problem without affecting the unity and territorial integrity of the island nations.

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh who arrived here this afternoon on a two-day official visit, conveyed New Delhi’s stand at a dinner meeting, hosted by President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

During his meeting with Mrs Kumaratunga, Mr Jaswant Singh is believed to have reassured Sri Lanka on New Delhi’s stand India values the unity and territorial integrity of its neighbour.

Mr Jaswant Singh is visiting Sri Lanka barely three days after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee secured a consensus from his National Democratic Alliance partners over Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s remarks that a Czechoslovak’s-type division of the island nation is the only solution to end the crisis in Sri Lanka. Official sources said that the Foreign Minister’s visit is to further cement the bilateral relations between the two countries and to remove the misunderstanding created by Mr Karunanidhi’s statement.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was also present at the dinner. The Indian Foreign Minister is scheduled to have another round of talks with the President tomorrow morning.

Later, he will have bilateral talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart Lakshman Kadirgamar during a luncheon meeting.

He will also meet opposition and United National Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and some moderate Tamil party leader tomorrow afternoon.

Earlier, on his arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport he was received by Deputy Foreign Minister Lakshman Kirella.

He is accompanied by joint secretary Leela Ponnappa in the ministry.

Mr Jaswant said that he was visiting the country on the invitation of Sri Lanka and his talks would depend on the issues that Sri Lankan leadership “focus upon”.

Speaking briefly to television crews at the Bandaranaike International Airport after his arrival, he said he was visiting Colombo as a friend of Sri Lanka and on the invitation of the Sri Lankan Government.

“My focus (during the talks) would be what the Sri Lankan President and Foreign Minister decide to set the focus upon,” he said.

Asked what would be issues he would like to highlight during his visit, he said “friendship with Sri Lanka and friendship with peace”.

Considering the precarious security situation in Colombo, a very high profile security has been provided to Mr Jaswant Singh, with army and police commandos deployed at ‘India House’, the residence of Indian High Commissioner where he is staying.

Though his visit was widely attributed by the media here as a “damage-limiting exercise” in view of suggestion by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi for dividing Sri Lanka on the pattern of Czech and Slovakia, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister has said Mr Jaswant Singh had come at the invitation of the Sri Lankan Government.

The Foreign Ministry officials here have also said the talks would centre around a “structured agenda” covering all aspects of issues concerning Colombo and New Delhi.

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