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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2857

Indian Foreign Secretary meets Rajapaksa, discusses 'political' situation

Colombo/New Delhi, 17 January ( Amidst indications that LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran has escaped to a coastal hideout in Penang, Malaysia, Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon Saturday discussed the 'political' situation with President Mahinda at Kandy, a day after he arrived in Sri Lanka on an unscheduled 2-day visit to the Island country.Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa  welcoming  the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Shivashankar Menon at Kandy President's House on 17th mornoing.Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa welcoming the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Shivashankar Menon at Kandy President's House on 17th mornoing.

Both sides took recourse to diplomatisque to remain vague on what had been discussed at the meeting that lasted about 90-minutes. They discussed 'issues' of bilateral interest and ''exchanged' views on the current developments' in the war-ravaged north, an official release said. This is a giveaway that progress of Eelam war figured prominently.

Both sides have discounted media speculation that three hundred thousand Tamils are being held as human shield in the last LTTE pocket. Satellite imageries and aerial photographs of the area don't show 'that big a human mass'.

If indeed 300 thousand are there in the small strip, then they will have to be standing shoulder-to shoulder and aerial images cannot miss such spectacle, highly placed sources said without getting into details like who had provided the 'evidence'. According to them, it was all Tigers' propaganda.

Indian and Sri Lankan sources ducked queries as to why Menon has visited over the weekend, that too when President Rajapaksa had moved to Kandy to celebrate Pongal. And whether issues related to 1987 accord and 'ceasefire' figured in the discussions either with the President or with Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama on Friday in Colombo.

According to one version in circulation, Foreign Minister Bogollagama told Menon that the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka accord was 'still' the key to seeking a political solution to the island's ethnic conflict. He is understood to have termed the battle field victories as the 'window' of opportunity to 'fully implement' the agreement and assured the Indian Official that the government of President Rajapaksa is in the 'process of exploring' avenues to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The Sri Lanka Minister highlighted his government's sincere commitment to evolving a 'broad-based and an inclusive' peace process in order to achieve a 'durable peace, acceptable to all communities living in the island'.Diplomacy is all about lighter moments - Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa   and the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Shivashankar Menon ( Pix – Sudath Silva)Diplomacy is all about lighter moments - Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Shivashankar Menon ( Pix – Sudath Silva)

Significantly, the Menon visit has taken place with the full knowledge of Tamilnadu chief minister Muthavel Karunanidhi. He has termed the visit as an 'important' development. Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK) leader Thol Thirumavalavan has undertaken a 'fast-unto death', pressing for a 'cease-fire' though the demand has lost relevance after the fall of Tigers 'Eelam' to the army.

As if counseling patience to Thirumavalavan, Karunanidhi Friday said that it would be better to wait for a few days to find out if the Sri Lankan government would stop its murderous attack on Tamils.

"In the past 50 years I have done whatever I can on the Sri Lankan issue; I am prepared to do more. I leave it to your judgment on what needs to be done', the Tamilnadu chief minister said but made no reference to the 'delay' in the planned visit of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Colombo.

Highly places sources in Colombo preferred to describe Menon visit as a routine one.

'The purpose of the visit is to develop bilateral relations. It has been in the works for a long while, particularly after Basil Rajapaksa visited Delhi as President's special emissary', the sources said without elaborating whether Tamil suffering, a touchy issue, figured in the confabulations Menon had with his Lankan hosts.

Menon, accompanied by Indian High Commissioner to Colombo, Alok Prasad, had a meeting with leader of the main opposition United National Party, (UNP), Ranil Wickremesinghe, and leaders of key Muslim and Tamil parties, including the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) besides his Sri Lanka counterpart Palitha Kohona.

Menon Friday handed over a token consignment of medicines to Basil Rajapaksa as part of India's second installment of Sri Lanka Rs. 110 worth humanitarian assistance for the people stranded in 'battle zone'. India's first consignment of relief material sent two months back comprised 80,000 ready-to-use family packs containing food, clothing and personal hygiene items; these items have been distributed amongst the needy through the Red Cross.

In a statement the Indian High Commission said India 'will continue to work with Sri Lanka in meeting the humanitarian needs of the civilian population in northern Sri Lanka'.

The Rajapaksa government last week stated that it was planning to develop Kilinochchi, the fallen political capital of Tigers, with the assistance of India

A Sri Lankan government release said discussions with Menon focused on the prevailing political situation, economical issues of concern and multi-lateral relationships between the two countries besides the forthcoming SAARC foreign ministers' conference in Colombo.

'President also explained about the facilities provided by the government to refugees fleeing from LTTE belt. Rajapaksa also mentioned about the scheduled development plans in the Northern Province aimed at improving living standards of people in the war-affected region', the release said.

On his part, Menon told his hosts that India's relations with Sri Lanka have reached 'an unprecedented level of depth and quality today', according to the release which goes on to state that India-Sri Lanka relationship had 'effectively withstood the test of time and adversity'

-Asian Tribune-

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