Somersault: India calls for Govt-LTTE talks

In a sudden shift of policy, India yesterday appealed to the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to hold talks and come to a peaceful settlement.

Acting Prime Minister Pranab Mukherjee said there was no military solution to the Sri Lankan crisis and a political solution must be found.

It was only just 72 hours ago, Mr. Mukherjee in a statement to parliament ruled out any Indian intervention to stop Sri Lanka’s military operations against the LTTE and slammed the LTTE as a banned organization that had done much damage to the Tamil community.'

Expressing concern over the latest turn of events in Sri Lanka in the wake of the LTTE air raids on Colombo, Mr. Mukherjee told reporters at Berhampore in West Bengal yesterday: "LTTE planes have been shot down. This is of concern. A political solution has to be found to the LTTE issue and military action will not do.”

India’s sudden turn-around came amidst concern in New Delhi over developments in Tamil Nadu where anti-centre sentiments are running high over the Congress-led government’s refusal to pressurize the Sri Lankan government to stop the war against the LTTE.

Four Indian Tamils have committed self-immolation after they accused the central government of failing to protect Sri Lankan Tamils, while protests by lawyers and students have also crippled Tamil Nadu, with rising Tamil nationalist sentiments causing concern in India’s ruling circles.

Maintaining that "a political solution is the only way out”, Mr. Mukherjee, who will be arriving in Sri Lankan on Friday for the SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting, said, "The two sides should sit across the table for a negotiated settlement of the issue. And, for that a congenial and peaceful atmosphere has to be created. Till that is not forthcoming, attacks and counter-attacks will continue to hit the country.”

Commenting on the plight of the civilians in the Wanni, Mr. Mukherjee said, “We are concerned.We are concerned for the huge Sri Lankan Tamil population, who has been caught in the crossfire. They are being killed and their normal life is seriously affected." He said India would appeal to Colombo to ensure that the rights of the minority Tamils were protected.

The Acting Premier also said the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord should be implemented with more powers to the provincial councils being devolved. Mr. Mukherjee said the Tamils and other ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka must have an arrangement where their legitimate aspirations should be fulfilled within the framework of the Sri Lankan Constitution without affecting the territorial unity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

He said India expected a devolution package could be evolved fulfilling this criteria and the present impasse overcome. That should be the basis of restoration of normalcy, he added.

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