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As DMK relents, crisis for Centre ends

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Fruitful meeting: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in conversation with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi in Chennai on Sunday. The others in the photograph (from left) are: Minister for Shipping and Surface Transport T.R. Baalu, TNCC president K.V. Thangkabalu, Kanimozhi, MP, and Tamil Nadu Local Administration Minister M.K. Stalin.
Fruitful meeting: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in conversation with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi in Chennai on Sunday. The others in the photograph (from left) are: Minister for Shipping and Surface Transport T.R. Baalu, TNCC president K.V. Thangkabalu, Kanimozhi, MP, and Tamil Nadu Local Administration Minister M.K. Stalin.

Priscilla Jebaraj

Karunanidhi: we won’t press with resignations; Pranab talks of Sri Lanka’s assurances

CHENNAI: Signalling the end of a major crisis that threatened the continuance of the United Progressive Alliance government, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi assured External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee that he would not precipitate any crisis over the issue of a ceasefire in the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict, even as the island nation assured India that the safety of Tamils in that country was being taken care of.

On Sunday evening, Mr. Mukherjee met Mr. Karunanidhi at his residence here and requested him not to press with the resignation of Tamil Nadu Members of Parliament over the issue. (An all-party meeting, chaired by Mr. Karunanidhi last week, had resolved that the MPs might have to resign if the Centre did not ensure a ceasefire in Sri Lanka by October 29.)

“He suggested that we defer the decision [to resign] now. I gave him that assurance,” Mr. Karunanidhi told the media after his meeting with Mr. Mukherjee.

While emphasising the need to ensure that the ceasefire, which existed at the time of Norway’s initiative, is back in place, Mr. Karunanidhi agreed that it had to be further discussed. There was no final decision on whether India should take the initiative for a ceasefire, or whether other countries or agencies should play a role. “There is no impediment now to analyse the modalities to bring about a ceasefire,” said Mr. Karunanidhi.

“This issue has been going on for 40 years, we cannot expect it to be resolved in four days,” said Mr. Karunanidhi.

“We are not party to a ceasefire, we have not broken a ceasefire and we cannot restore a ceasefire on our own,” said Mr. Mukherjee. “We have said there cannot be a military solution … We are asking for a political solution.”

Mr. Mukherjee told the media that he had pressed Sri Lankan special envoy Basil Rajapaksa to implement the devolution of power agreed upon by the high power committee as soon as possible. The envoy assured him that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa would himself take charge of the political package and push it through politically. A committee would also be established to benchmark what could be done on increased devolution in the Eastern province.

Asked about Indian military assistance to Sri Lanka, Mr. Mukherjee said that while India was not a net exporter of arms, it sometimes gave some non-lethal equipment and platforms. Pointing out the position of the Indian and Sri Lankan coastlines, he said the radar that was given would cover vital installations in Indian areas as well.

“If the decisions finalised today [on Sunday] are implemented in full, I will be fully satisfied,” said Mr. Karunanidhi. On the resignations by Tamil Nadu MPs, he said some of the participants at the all-party meet were now having second thoughts about that decision. “So we too have second thoughts,” he said.

Mr. Mukherjee declined to answer questions on political realignments or the Congress view about them.

Relates stories:
  • India's action on Sri Lanka not satisfactory, says CPI
  • Karunanidhi condemns demolition of Rajiv statue
  • DMK for all-party team to Sri Lanka
  • Military solution in Sri Lanka very difficult: U.S.
  • Karunanidhi lauds Centre's steps
  • Bust of Rajiv Gandhi damaged in Chennai

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