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Pact with Sri Lanka the first of its kind

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Sorting it out: Basil Rajapaksa, Senior Advisor to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi on Sunday. At right is Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon.
Sorting it out: Basil Rajapaksa, Senior Advisor to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi on Sunday. At right is Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon.

Special Correspondent

It is expected to lead to a cooling of the political temperature in Tamil Nadu

New Delhi: Describing Sunday’s agreement between India and Sri Lanka on fishing as highly significant, a senior Indian official said this was the first time the two countries had come up with a way of dealing with what happens when fisherfolk cross the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). To the extent to which the fishermen issue had been a principal concern of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and most MPs from the State, the official expected the new agreement to lead to a cooling of the political temperature in the State.

The agreement came at the end of a visit to Delhi by Basil Rajapaksa, senior advisor to the President of Sri Lanka.

India’s concern

In a joint press release, the Ministry of External Affairs said India had conveyed its concern at the humanitarian situation in the northern part of Sri Lanka, especially of civilians and internally displaced persons caught in the hostilities and emphasised the need for unhindered essential relief supplies. As a gesture of goodwill, the release said, “India has decided to send 800 tonnes of relief material to Sri Lanka for the affected civilians in the North.” This relief will be routed through the Sri Lankan government with actual distribution overseen by the United Nations, senior officials told The Hindu.

On his part, Mr. Rajapaksa said the Sri Lankan authorities were making efforts to provide relief and ensure the welfare of civilians in the North. And he gave an assurances that “the safety and wellbeing of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka is being taken care of,” the press release noted.

Political settlement

The joint release also noted that both sides discussed the need to move towards a peacefully negotiated political settlement in the island, including the North and that terrorism should be countered with resolve. The Indian side called for implementation of the 13th amendment and greater devolution of powers to the provinces. As for Sri Lanka’s Eastern province, both sides agreed to “further nurture the democratic process” there.

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