India has advised Sri Lanka to take rapid steps domestically to ease international pressure emanating from a report on the conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in which the government has nearly been accused of committing war crimes.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris met the entire top firmament of India's security and diplomatic set-up on Tuesday, following a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on April 20.
After discussing the impact of a report recommending international investigation into alleged human rights abuses by the Lankan armed forces and the LTTE, both leaders decided that India would be the first port of call for Mr. Peiris. He will now present Colombo's views before a meeting of the Non-Aligned Group in Bali on Thursday, and visit China after about a week.
“Our message was for them to take steps domestically and let friends like India help them. There is a lot of concern in India [over the pace of political reconciliation] because, after all, the conflict ended two years back. If they don't take measures in the domestic domain there is bound to be pressure from elsewhere,” said government sources.
Even as certain human rights groups and some countries seek the report's implementation, Sri Lanka says it was not mandated by the United Nations Security Council.
The Indian leadership asked Sri Lanka to accelerate reconciliation through initiatives on the political as well as executive side. In response to India's desire for a “meaningful devolution package which builds on the 13th Amendment'' – meaning the setting up of provincial councils, Mr. Peiris assured that after six rounds of talks, Colombo and the Tamil National Alliance were moving towards “substantial issues.”
In other words, they were discussing the shuffling of Central, provincial and concurrent lists in a way that devolution of powers to the provinces was maximised. This message was conveyed “very categorically” by each of Mr. Peiris' interlocutors — Dr. Singh, Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna, National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.
India asked Sri Lanka to draw up a list of persons missing after the conflict and issue death certificates to those confirmed killed. The absence of any information about a large number of people, predominantly of Tamil origin, is causing anxiety and disconcert among the survivors. India also asked Sri Lanka to remove the high security zones that lead to highhandedness and ease emergency regulations.
Though India pressed Sri Lanka hard on accelerating conciliation — which was prefaced by the words “genuine” — it also indicated its aversion to country-specific resolutions of the type contained in the report. Colombo in turn shared with New Delhi its rejoinder sent to U.N. Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon.
At the same time, the joint statement reflected India's unease over the delay by Colombo to end emotional, political and economic estrangement with the Tamil-origin community by mentioning aspects normally mentioned in delegation-level talks, but mentioned publicly such as seeking the early withdrawal of emergency regulations, investigations into allegations of human rights violations and redress of humanitarian concerns of affected families .