Khurshid asks Colombo to request Army not to purchase land in conflict-hit areas
India tried to contain the after effects of a selective briefing it gave on Friday about its relations with Sri Lanka.
During a telephonic conversation on Friday, the External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid advised his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris not to take any steps that would dilute Colombo’s assurance of a better deal to island Tamils who had been hit hard by the conflict between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The Indian advice came in the wake of reports about a small nationalist party, the JHU, planning to move parliament soon to abolish the thirteenth amendment — which aims to empower the Tamils regionally.
Asked whether a small party would be able to get the government to drop a clause that it has promised to the world to implement, official sources they feared that an upsurge of nationalist sentiments in the Sri Lankan Parliament may well carry such a proposal through. That’s why Mr. Khurshid thought it prudent to caution Mr. Peiris.
The second counsel by Mr. Khurshid was to request the Lankan Army not to purchase land in conflict-hit areas. Here too the same approach of cautioning the Lankans has prevailed with sources pointing out in the past too, India has drawn Colombo’s attention to the issue of the Sri Lankan Army squatting on prime pieces of farm land years after the conflict ended.
Sri Lankan diplomatic sources continued to remain baffled over this interpretation of the conversation. “This is strange because I hear there are factual inaccuracies in the reports,” they said. Indian sources also tried to play down the reports that have got adverse play in the Sri Lankan media.
“We were not as stern but we had to take this risk of pointing out the pitfalls. People will take us to task if we didn’t point it out,” they explained while preferring to highlight Mr. Khurshid raising the issue of early release of 26 Indian fishermen detained by Sri Lanka.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s indifference was one reason for the arrests and long detentions of prisoners, said the MEA sources. They accused Ms. Jayalalithaa of not allowing Tamil fishermen from both countries to meet in order to resolve most issues of discord among themselves.
The sources also blamed her for Indian fishermen being detained in Sri Lanka for long periods because her government tends to arrest fishermen from the other country and not respond to pleas to release them. “The MEA has written several letters to the Tamil Nadu government on releasing the Sri Lankan fishermen after completing the formalities. But she has rarely, if ever, replied to them,’’ they said.