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High-powered Sri Lankan delegation to visit India, discuss IDPs

[Hindu, Wednesday, 9 December 2009 08:42 No Comment]

A three member high powered Sri Lankan delegation consisting of President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Senior Presidential Advisor, Basil Rajapaksa is visiting India beginning on Wednesday for consultations.

The troika has been functioning as an informal group on behalf of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to inform and interact with all those who matter within and outside the island nation in general and on events unfolding in Sri Lanka from time to time and has made similar journeys to New Delhi several times during the year.

The latest visit assumes importance against the backdrop of the January 26 Presidential election where Mr. Rajapaksa would be pitted against the prematurely retired General Fonseka as a consensus candidate of the mainstream opposition parties in the country.

A senior official in the Government said that all issues of mutual interest to India and Sri Lanka including the latest US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chaired by John F. Kerry advocating the need for a more congenial relationship between Colombo and Washington in view of the changed geostrategic ground realities in the region.

Relations between Colombo and Washington became adversarial days after the demise of the LTTE chief Velupillai Prabakaran in the Eelam War IV which ended in the fourth week of May and the Kerry report acknowledges that attitude of some US officials in Colombo and Washington have contributed to the flare up.

A key recommendation of the comprehensive bi-partisan report is, “The Obama administration should take a broader and more robust approach to Sri Lanka that appreciates new political and economic realities in Sri Lanka and U.S. geostrategic interests. Such an approach should be multidimensional so that U.S. policy is not driven solely by short-term humanitarian concerns but rather an integrated strategy that leverages political, economic, and security tools for more effective long-term reforms”.

Like the rest of the world, the US and India were perturbed over the decision of the Government to confine the war displaced behind heavily guarded barbed wired camps and deny them freedom of movement.

Resolve of the Sri Lanka Government on November 21 to wind up the camps by January 31 and allow freedom to travel to those remaining in the camps has to a large extent helped in calming the world opinion.

The Government made it known that as of Tuesday the total number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Menik Farm has come down to 94,000. On Wednesday President Rajapaksa is scheduled to visit north, the theatre of war between the Tigers and the security forces, and declare open a monument in memory of soldiers who died in the course of the 34 month war.

Sri Lankan official said that during the course of their stay in New Delhi, the team would interact with National Security Advisor N.K.Naryanan, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao who was former Indian High Commissioner in Colombo and the Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar.

[Full Coverage]

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