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India, SL to discuss Tamil issue
Published on 8 Jun. 2010 11:26 PM IST
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: Sri Lanka will brief India on the post-war political reconciliation plan and sign a slew of pacts to expand cooperation in areas ranging from counter-terrorism to development when leaders of the two countries hold talks here Wednesday. Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrives here Tuesday evening on a four-day state visit, his first since being re-elected the island country’s president in January this year.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wide-ranging talks with Rajapaksa Wednesday are set to be dominated by India’s concerns over the rehabilitation of nearly 300,000 war displaced Tamils and the political resettlement plan for Tamil and Muslim minorities in the island country.
India is expected to seek reassurance on an expeditious resettlement of displaced Tamils, estimated to be between 70,000 to 80,000, who continue to live in relief camps, over a year after the Sri Lankan troops militarily crushed the insurgency led by Tamil Tigers. Although it had promised to resettle all 300,000 war displaced within six months of defeating the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government has now set August as the deadline for closure of relief camps housing the refugees.
With political parties in India mounting pressure on seeking a settlement of the Tamil question, Manmohan Singh is likely to seek reassurance from Rajapaksa about his plan for devolution of powers that has long been in the making but has been delayed due to a host of domestic factors. Rajapaksa, on his part, is likely to brief Indian leaders on the steps taken by his government to forge a consensus on a political solution to the decades-old ethnic conflict.
After the talks, the two sides are likely to sign four-five pacts in areas of counter-terror cooperation, cultural exchange and Indian assistance for small development projects in Sri Lanka, said reliable sources. Since the time he became president in November 2005, Rajapaksa has repeatedly promised to devolve powers to the minorities. Ahead of Rajapaksa’s visit, India’s Left parties urged the government to tell the Sri Lankan leader about the need for an early political settlement of the Tamil issue.
“The government should impress upon the president the need for an expeditious political settlement of the Tamil question which would involve the devolution of powers and autonomy for the Tamil-speaking areas,” the Communist Party of India-Marxist said in a statement Monday. “Such a political solution will strengthen the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka,” it said. On the eve of his departure for New Delhi, Rajapaksa consulted a delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and assured that his government was serious about finding a solution to the complex issue.
After wrapping up official talks in New Delhi, Rajapaksa Thursday will head to the cooler climes of Shimla, an unusual destination for visiting heads of state. In Shimla, he will meet Governor Urmila Singh who will host a reception in his honour. He returns to Colombo Friday.

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