Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: Sri Lanka has assured India that the safety and well-being of the Tamil community in that country will be taken care of and Basil Rajapaksa, Senior Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, will visit New Delhi shortly to explain his government’s position in this regard, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a suo motu statement in both Houses of Parliament here on Wednesday.

Expressing “serious concern” over the situation in Sri Lanka, particularly the deteriorating humanitarian situation with regard to civilians caught in the hostilities, Mr. Mukherjee said New Delhi had emphasised to Colombo that the safety and security of the civilians must be guarded at all costs.

The civilians must also get unhindered access to food and essential supplies.

Mr. Mukherjee reiterated the government’s stand that there was no military solution to the ethnic conflict and what was required was a peacefully negotiated political settlement “within the framework of a united Sri Lanka respecting rights of the minorities,” including the Tamil community.

“The rights and welfare of the Tamil community of Sri Lanka should not get enmeshed in the ongoing hostilities against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE]. We encourage the government of Sri Lanka to continue to nurture the democratic process in the Eastern province as well,” said Mr. Mukherjee.

India has also taken up with the Sri Lankan government the need to ensure the safety of its fishermen. While it was important for Indian fishermen to respect the International Maritime Boundary Line, “we have impressed upon the Sri Lankan Navy to desist from firing on Indian fishermen. Our two governments have agreed to work towards concluding practical arrangements to prevent such incidents,” added Mr. Mukherjee.

The External Affairs Minister was unable to read the statement in the Lok Sabha because of protests by Left parties over the cut in rice quota to Kerala.

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