Menon acknowledged the dire situation and said that the fighting was more intense in the conflict zone, with higher casualty figures and more use of heavy weaponry.
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/15/2019 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PHUM, MOPS, PREF, CE, IN SUBJECT: INDIAN FOREIGN SECRETARY WEIGHS POST-CONFLICT CONFERENCE ON SRI LANKA
Classified By: CDA Peter Burleigh. Reasons: 1.4(B, D).
1. (C) Charge met with Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon May 15 for a discussion on the urgent humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. Menon acknowledged the dire situation and said that the fighting was more intense in the conflict zone, with higher casualty figures and more use of heavy weaponry. Menon said the pressure needed to be put on the Sri Lankan government to limit the harm caused to civilians, but he cautioned that bilateral diplomacy would be more effective than highly public pressure in the UN Security Council or the Human Rights Council.
2. (C) Menon noted that within the past 24 hours, he had noticed in the Indian government's contacts with Sri Lanka that the Indians were sometimes in possession of more up-to-date knowledge about conditions in the conflict zone than some of their Colombo interlocutors. He speculated that the Sri Lankan military may not be keeping the brothers Rajapaksa as fully informed about the military situation. Menon said that the military was clearly finding it tougher going than they may had expected.
3. (C) The GOI is providing substantial humanitarian assistance in Sri Lanka, he confirmed, with 50,000 family meal packets being delivered last week and 40,000 to be delivered in the coming weeks. Shelters, medical supplies and two demining teams were also on the way. Prompted by the CDA's question, Menon said the next big humanitarian issue to be faced was the length of time Tamil IDPs would be kept in camps. India had already weighed in with the GSL, arguing that the six month period the GSL was considering was too long. Sri Lankan authorities needed to be more discriminating in how they screened IDPs, but lacked the capacity to carry out such vetting on an orderly basis. Menon said that ""association"" with the LTTE was not a useful metric; given the situation in northern Sri Lanka over the past twenty years, that would keep far too many people in the camps. Sri Lanka needed to look at those who actually posed a security threat.
4. (C) Turning to next steps after the conflict had ended, Menon said the Sri Lankan government had reassured India that the government would focus on implementation of the 13th Amendment Plus as soon as possible. Menon was skeptical. Noting that he would present the proposal to the next Foreign Minister after formation of the new Indian government, he suggested it would be useful for India to convoke an international conference -- noting that India, the Co-Chairs and China should attend -- to look at the post-conflict landscape. Menon characterized this as an opportunity for India; prohibitions on contacts with the LTTE had prevented useful engagement in the past, but now there would be space. Menon expressly included China in the grouping, arguing that best results from Sri Lanka could be expected when the West, India and China all worked together. Otherwise, Sri Lanka would find ways to play its international interlocutors off against each other.