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S. M. Krishna heads to Sri Lanka, hopes for solution to Tamils’ problems

[Deccan Chronicle, Monday, 16 January 2012 09:09 No Comment]

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Sunday hoped for a lasting political solution to the outstanding issues between the minority Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans and the government.

"It is in the interest of the island nation to work out a lasting solution to the ethnic Tamils’ issues," Krishna said ahead of his four-day visit to Sri Lanka starting on Monday.

Noting that the Sri Lankan government should talk to a cross-section of the Tamil-speaking minorities and their leadership for an amicable settlement of all pending issues, he said the Indian approach to this contentious issue had been for a genuine national reconciliation and thereby a lasting political settlement in the island nation.

"We have taken the Tamil sentiments into account and factored them in our policies. Our view is that all outstanding issues should be resolved through dialogue and to the satisfaction of both the parties," he said.

During his second visit, Krishna will hold wide-ranging talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris on the Tamils’ issue, repatriation of genuine fishermen held in each other territory and expedite negotiations for a pact to jointly develop fisheries.

Krishna first visited Sri Lanka as external affairs minister in November 2010.

"I think an early and amicable solution will help improve people-to-people contact between Tamils in India and northern Sri Lanka. If trade and movement of people between the two countries, especially from Tamil Nadu thrives, it will be a win-win situation," Krishna pointed out.

Krishna will also call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister D. M Jayaratne during the visit and discuss bilateral issues between the two countries.

Krishna will meet representatives of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and elicit their views on the progress in their talks with Colombo over the proposed devolution of powers to the regions.

TNA has been pushing for land and police powers in the provinces.

Although Rajapaksa has made it clear that the government would not devolve these powers to the regions in line with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, his government had indicated its willingness to discuss the issue.

Krishna will also review progress in an India-assisted project for building 50,000 houses in war-ravaged north for internally-displaced people and hand over the first set of houses in Jaffna, built for ethnic Tamils.

He will go to Galle to inaugurate the Southern Railway Project, which has been renovated with India’s concessional line of credit.

"Though we had been contributing to the socio-economic development of the Tamil region all along, it had taken a back seat during the internal strife. Now that normalcy is restored, we believe that all projects, which have been delayed or held up, will move forward hereafter," Krishna added.

Reiterating that India’s political relations with Sri Lanka certainly had economic criteria, the minister said he would continue to lay emphasis on economic interaction with the island nation.

According to an external affairs ministry spokesperson, India and Sri Lanka will sign four agreements in housing, railways, agriculture and telecommunications during Krishna’s visit.

[Full Coverage]

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