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India changes language with measured ambiguity

[TamilNet, Friday, 13 February 2009 07:47 No Comment]

Indian President Prathiba Patil in her address to the joint sitting of Indian Parliament on Thursday declared that India continued to support a negotiated political settlement in Sri Lanka within the framework of an undivided Sri Lanka acceptable to all the communities, including the Tamil community. Ms. Prathiba Patil urged Colombo and the Tigers to return to negotiating table.

Addressing the members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Ms. Pratibha Devisingh Patil said:
"We are concerned at the plight of civilians internally displaced in Sri Lanka on account of escalation of the military conflict. We continue to support a negotiated political settlement in Sri Lanka within the framework of an undivided Sri Lanka acceptable to all the communities, including the Tamil community. I would appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka and to the LTTE to return to the negotiating table. This can be achieved if, simultaneously, the Government of Sri Lanka suspends its military operations and the LTTE declares its willingness to lay down arms and to begin talks with the government."

The address of the President of India in the joint session of the Parliament is a declared official position of the Government of India (GoI).

Even though the relevant part of the declaration began saying "we continue to support," the nuances of Indian position have changed significantly.

Instead of silently allowing the continuation of war, the GoI has asked the Parties to return to the negotiating table.

India has also taken a position that the LTTE is a partner in the negotiations.

GoI now requests both parties to act simultaneously: Colombo to suspend military operations and the Tigers to declare its willingness to lay down arms, which allows room for both parties to actually end the war only after reaching a mutually accepted position in the political negotiations.

Laying down arms is specifically understood as surrender in the usage of English language (The Concise Oxford Dictionary). But, "declare its willingness" provides space for conditional engagement.

The statement ‘within the framework of an undivided Sri Lanka acceptable to all communities, including the Tamil community,’ is ambiguous and could mean acceptance coming from the Tamil people is a precondition for an undivided Sri Lanka.

However, in the wake of Colombo’s rejection of the British attempt to appoint a Special Envoy to Sri Lanka to help seek a political solution, it remains to be seen how Colombo will respond to the changed nuances in the stance of the Indian government.

PTI reported members of PMK and MDMK, wearing black shirts, rose at one point during her 80-minute long speech and shouted: ‘Your Highness, please stop the war in Sri Lanka’.

[Full Coverage]

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