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Tamil interests safe: Lanka
Killing of fishermen unacceptable: Manmohan
Ashok Tuteja & Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 18
With political climate in Tamil Nadu deteriorating due to the military action in the island nation, Prime Minister today firmly asked President Mahinda Rajapaksa to instruct the Sri Lankan Navy to desist from firing on Indian fishermen, emphasising that the safety and the security of civilians must be safeguarded at all costs.

n External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to undertake a visit here shortly to discuss the situation arising out of the military offensive in LTTE-held north, sources said today. The decision in this regard is understood to have been reached during PM-Rajapaksa telephonic conversation. — PTI

The Prime Minister reiterated that the killings of fishermen were unacceptable to India and asked Colombo to ensure “uninterrupted relief supplies” for the internally displaced persons to address the humanitarian consequences of the military action.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said the Sri Lankan President telephoned Manmohan Singh to discuss the recent developments in his country. President Rajapaksa assured him that all necessary measures were being taken to ensure the safety and well being of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.

The Indian Prime Minister emphasised that the rights and the welfare of the Tamil community of Sri Lanka should not get enmeshed in the ongoing hostilities against the LTTE. He reiterated that there was no military solution to the conflict and urged Rajapaksa to start a political process for a peacefully negotiated political settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. He also underlined the need to nurture the democratic process in the Eastern Province. Rajapaksa is likely to send a senior envoy to New Delhi early next week to discuss issues raised by the Manmohan Singh government.

India has been deeply concerned over the situation in Sri Lanka and this has been conveyed to Colombo at various levels. Only yesterday, foreign secretary Shiv Shanker Menon had summoned Sri Lankan High Commisioner C.R. Jayasinghe to the foreign office and asked the government in the island nation to take steps to ensure that the harassment and killings of innocent Tamil civilians stopped forthwith.

Political parties in Tamil Nadu have maintained pressure on the UPA government to come forward and ensure the safety of the Tamil population. Several MPs of the DMK, a key ally of the UPA government, have submitted post-dated resignations to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi in line with the decision of all parties in the state to ask their MPs to quit Parliament if the ‘genocide’ in Sri Lanka did not stop.

The UPA regime is obviously in a bind due to the competitive politics being played in Tamil Nadu. Rival political parties in Tamil Nadu, particularly the DMK and the AIADMK, are well aware of the anger among the people of the state due to the happenings in Sri Lanka.This could cost them substantially in the Lok Sabha elections, which are not far away.

However, the Centre knows fully well that it can’t go beyond a point since it is not dealing with an Indian state but with a sovereign nation. It also would like the political parties to clearly draw a distinction between the LTTE cadres and the Tamil civilians. It would in no way like to be even remotely seen to be trying to save the LTTE cadres, who have suffered heavily in the ongoing military offensive in the island nation.

Meanwhile, Congress media cell chief M. Veerappa Moily told reporters that the party was hopeful that the ‘pro-active steps’ taken by the UPA government would satisfy political parties in Tamil Nadu. He said the Congress appreciated the concerns of the people and political parties in Tamil Nadu over the harassment and killings of innocent civilians in Sri Lanka.

Chennai: Welcoming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statements favouring a negotiated settlement to end the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi has said the remarks raised hopes of the Centre taking steps to halt Lankan troops’ offensive against Tamils in LTTE-held areas.

The DMK chief, while writing in party organ “Murasoli”, said he found solace in the remarks of the PM and hoped the Centre would consider the demands of an all-party meeting here on October 14.

Meanwhile, seeking to bring down the political temperature over the Tamil issue, Union Minister and DMK leader T R Baalu today said the fortnight period given by parties in Tamil Nadu was not a “deadline” nor aimed at giving trouble to the Manmohan Singh ministry. Baalu, a confidant of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK patron M Karunanidhi, said the 14-day period announced after an all-party meet on October 14 was “not a deadline”. — Agencies



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