Tuesday, June 13, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

India offers $ 100 m credit to Lanka
Rules out military involvement

NEW DELHI, June 12 (PTI) — India tonight ruled out any military intervention in Sri Lanka to resolve the country’s ethnic strife, offered a $ 100 million credit facility as humanitarian assistance and favoured a devolution package for a political settlement to bring lasting peace in the island nation.

“The question of military involvement in Sri Lanka is not an option we consider as open,” External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh told reporters at Delhi airport on his arrival after a two-day visit to Colombo.

Mr Jaswant Singh, who held talks with President Chandrika Kumaratunga and other Sri Lankan leaders, said “India does not want to get involved in any fire fight" to resolve the conflict, adding that “there is no way we will repeat the 1987 IPKF experiment’’.

To a question, Mr Jaswant Singh also ruled out any mediation by India between Colombo and the LTTE, saying the situation does not warrant it. New Delhi, he said, was supportive of Norwegian efforts to help resolve the problem.

Asked whether the revised devolution package would take into account the interests of the Sri Lankan Tamils, he said it was for the Sri Lankan Parliament to take a view on it. “We do not want to tread on the sovereign territory that belongs to Sri Lanka’s Parliament.’’

After his two-day talks with Ms Kumaratunga, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and Opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe, Mr Jaswant Singh announced the $ 100 million credit facility as immediate humanitarian assistance to “ease any constraints’’ faced by Colombo.

A joint statement issued at the end of the visit said possibilities of Colombo purchasing wheat, rice and sugar on counter trade basis from India were also discussed by the two sides.

To a question, he said Sri Lanka had not made any request to India for evacuation of civilians or troops from war-ravaged Jaffna peninsula. Sri Lanka, he said, did not ask for any military assistance from New Delhi.

He also replied in the negative when asked if Colombo had conveyed its reservations over the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s recent statement that Sri Lanka should follow the Czech model for territorial separation on ethnic grounds if interests of the Tamils could not be protected.

Mr Jaswant Singh said his visit was mainly aimed at reinforcing India’s commitment for the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the island nation and restoration of lasting peace through a comprehensive political settlement.

He said for attaining this, it was necessary that the political process towards devolution should be set in motion as early as possible. “Everyone (in Colombo) without exception wanted the cessation of hostilities.’’

Mr Jaswant Singh said he would not like to hazard a guess on the outcome of the political process as it was an “extremely complex’’ situation and resulted in “heartbreaks’’ in the past.

The statement said the discussions between Mr Jaswant Singh and the Sri Lankan leaders had been productive and helped in “reaching of understanding” on the measures the two countries could take both collectively as well as individually, to bring about lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan President apprised Mr Jaswant Singh of the current political developments, including the consultations between the government and other political parties and facilitation efforts of Norway to bring peace in the country, it said.

The discussions touched upon the present situation and also the broader issues related to the further strengthening of relations the two countries traditionally enjoyed, the statement added.

Asked whether the Sri Lankan President had taken a hard stance after the recent killing of Industry Minister C.V. Goonaratne, Mr Jaswant Singh lauded Ms Kumaratunga for displaying great courage, resoluteness and stoicism while discharging her responsibilities.

On whether New Delhi was considering appointing a special envoy to Sri Lanka, he said there was no need for any such step for the present.

Meanwhile, a report from Colombo said Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka today extended their full cooperation and support to India in their efforts to find an acceptable and lasting solution to the ethnic problem facing the island nation for the past two decades. Representatives of the Tulf, Plote, EPDP, EPRLF, TELO and CWC who met Mr Jaswant Singh today were unanimous in their opinion that India alone could help solve the present crisis.

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