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Updated: October 16, 2010 03:03 IST

Manmohan, Rajapaksa discuss rehabilitation of Tamils

Special Correspondent
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a meeting in New Delhi on Friday.
PTI Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a meeting in New Delhi on Friday.

Time to act ‘decisively' to win over Tamils, says India

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday discussed the rehabilitation of Tamils and other bilateral issues.

Official sources said while Mr. Rajapaksa detailed the steps being taken for rehabilitation, India wanted Sri Lanka to act “decisively” on arriving at a political settlement to bridge the ethnic divide.

“It was a very cordial meeting. No issue was discussed at length, but India wanted to know our plans. We indicated that we want to talk to a broader spectrum of stakeholders. That is the only way to do this, to get their ideas and to build a consensus,” Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris told journalists here.

Mr. Rajapaksa had met the Tamil National Alliance twice and planned to meet its leader R. Sampanthan, he said.

Earlier, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told presspersons that India felt it was “time to act decisively to win over Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans so that their concerns were taken care of adequately.”

Officials from both sides reviewed the decisions taken at the previous summit meeting, including restoration of the railway infrastructure and Colombo noted that the paperwork for the $ 800-million credit line was over.

India had completed a survey of the Kankesanthurai port and was preparing a report for its modernisation. The paperwork for modernising the Palaly airport was over and the project to build 50,000 houses in the war-torn areas had taken off.

Sri Lanka appreciated the help extended by Indian civil society organisations in rehabilitating the war widows and providing assistance to farmers in the northern and eastern areas in sowing the fields after the end of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

During the interaction on Friday and the one held a day earlier between Mr. Krishna and Mr. Peiris, New Delhi stressed that Colombo initiate inclusive initiatives to ensure that the minorities did not feel alienated.

“Genuine devolution”

The meeting between Dr. Singh and Mr. Rajapaksa also touched the issue of “genuine devolution.” New Delhi wanted Colombo to treat Provinces as the unit of devolution.

Officials said Mr. Rajapaksa primarily came to attend the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games and there was “no significant new agenda.” The two sides mainly went through the “pending issues,” they said.

MoU on ferry services

B. Muralidhar Reddy reports from Colombo:

India and Sri Lanka initialled a memorandum of understanding for resumption of ferry services between Colombo and Tuticorin and Talaimannar and Rameswaram.

A statement by the Indian High Commission in Colombo said a delegation led by Secretary in the Ministry of Shipping K. Mohandas held discussions on October 14 and 15 on the MoU on ferry services.

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