The quicker Sri Lanka can come to a political arrangement “in which all communities are comfortable…the better,” National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said here after a series of meetings with Sri Lankan officials, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “We will do whatever we can to arrive at it.”
Asked if this should be within the 1987 India-suggested framework of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, which has been criticised widely in Sri Lanka, Mr. Menon said: “Our goal is an arrangement; the 13th Amendment is their amendment, not our amendment…we did the India-Sri Lanka agreement and gave them an enabling environment in which to implement their own amendment. Now if they think they want to do better than the 13th Amendment let them do it…They want to do it different, that's for them. They all [all parties] must feel comfortable with it,” he said.
Many of the Indian projects in Sri Lanka and the Tamil question in Sri Lanka, had “a past and a future,” he explained when asked about delays to projects, and said that he was satisfied with the outcome of the various meetings held over the past two days.
The Indian trio of Mr. Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, met senior officials and Tamil politicians, apart from the President, and said that they had “useful” interactions on various issues of bilateral importance.
While the Tamil Nadu resolution per se was not discussed, the substance of the resolution — the fishermen's issue — was discussed, he said. The Tamil Nadu Assembly, early this week, adopted a resolution to implead the State's Revenue Department in a case in the Supreme Court to retrieve the Katchatheevu island from Sri Lanka. India had ceded the island to Sri Lanka in 1974.
“The fishermen's associations have been in touch. I think they have some ideas. That's most important,” he said, and added that officials on both sides would build on the ideas put forth by fishermen from both sides. “All the substantive issues were discussed,” he said, when asked if the concerns of Tamil Nadu were articulated. “We speak for India and they speak for Sri Lanka. We have dealt with all the issues” and not issues raised by one State or a few individuals.
The Indian-aided housing project, aimed at the construction of 50,000 houses for internally displaced people of the northern province, is finally on track. Ms. Rao said that the work on the pilot project of cluster houses have begun and the target was to complete at least 50 houses by the end of June. The Indian side was hopeful of the completion of the entire pilot project of 1,000 houses by the end of the year.
Ms. Rao said that 43,000 houses would be under the owner-driven beneficiary scheme and the remaining houses would be set aside for special categories, such as women and the disabled.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has accepted an invitation from Mr. Rajapaksa to visit Sri Lanka. Mr. Menon said that he had handed over the letter of acceptance to Mr. Rajapaksa. “We have to work out the dates,” he said.
Mr. Pradeep Kumar said that the preparations for an annual defence dialogue between India and Sri Lanka were under way.
The troika left Colombo for New Delhi by a special flight on Saturday afternoon.