Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju’s observation that the Central government would continue to train members of the Sri Lankan armed forces has evoked a strong reaction from all major political leaders in the State.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, expressed her surprise and stated that the observation betrayed the “total insensitivity” on the part of the Union government towards her government’s views and the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu.

Recalling her previous letter sent to Dr Singh on Saturday on the issue of training, she reiterated that the Union government of India should give up “such a condemnable attitude and show more consideration and regard” for the sentiments of the people of the State by sending back the Defence personnel to Sri Lanka immediately.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi wondered whether Sri Lanka could be considered it as a friendly country when it was working closely with China.

“The relationship between India and Sri Lanka could be called ‘one-sided’ and can never be described ‘mutual’,” said Mr Karunanidhi. The leader of the DMK, a constituent of the Congress-led UPA at the Centre, sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention in this matter and wanted Mr. Raju to reconsider his opinion.

Sri Lanka’s Armed Forces had set up bases in places such as Palaly, Karainagar, Vavuniya, Killinochi, Mannar, Thallady and Elephant Pass in the northern province with Chinese assistance and Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie was visiting the country to discuss the issue, Mr. Karunanidhi added.

Condemning the Centre for its attitude of betraying Tamil Nadu’s interests for the sake of friendly ties with Sri Lanka, DMDK president Vijayakant said the Union government should never allow training to Sri Lankan military personnel anywhere in the country. “Are the continuing attacks on Indian fishermen or the military ruling Tamil areas in Sri Lanka friendly gestures,” he asked.

MDMK general secretary Vaiko said Mr. Raju’s statement was atrocious and reflected the views of the Central government. “This is a statement of the Prime Minister and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Otherwise, Mr. Raju would have been pulled up,” he told reporters here.

Pattali Makkal Katchi leader S. Ramadoss said Mr. Raju’s remarks displayed his ignorance of the geo-political situation since Sri Lanka had joined hands with China against India.

TNCC president B.S. Gnanadesikan said Mr. Raju told him over phone that he merely said that it was usual in the country to give training to friendly nations on the basis of agreements and that the Centre should take into consideration the objection by the States. Therefore, his statement did not mean that the Centre had rejected the plea to send back two Lankan military personnel. However, the TNCC wanted the training for two personnel stopped, he said, adding that he would speak to Defence Minister A.K. Antony in this regard.