India for early talks in Sri Lanka

NEW DELHI, APRIL 29. Expressing concern at the escalation of violence in Sri Lanka, the Government today called on Colombo and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to commence immediate negotiations to end the civil war in the island nation.

The Indian reaction comes after the LTTE's refusal to further extend its ceasefire and Colombo's latest disastrous effort to push for new military gains in the Jaffna peninsula. The renewed confrontation makes New Delhi distinctly uncomfortable, especially when Tamil Nadu is going to the polls.

In a statement here, a Foreign Office spokesman said India noted ``with concern the events of the past few days in Sri Lanka leading to the loss of a large number of lives''.

There has been some political disappointment here that the Sri Lankan Government may be losing the moral high ground it enjoyed in recent months by its strong support for a peace process. But in seeming to emphasise a military solution to the conflict, Colombo might be squandering the many diplomatic advantages it has held in dealing with the LTTE.

India has been strongly supportive of the Norwegian effort to facilitate a dialogue between the LTTE and Colombo. But Oslo's envoy, Mr. Eric Solheim, has found it difficult to get the two sides to agree to a set of reciprocal confidence building measures which would have created the right ambience for serious talks.

The distrust between the LTTE and Colombo runs deep; while talking of peace, they have not been averse to seeking military gains on the ground. There is also a sense of relief here that Colombo has given up its ill-advised and costly military offensive, and has renewed its call for a dialogue.

The spokesman expressed the hope that ``all parties would continue with the peace process and the talks would commence early''. Only a dialogue between Colombo and the LTTE, ``can lead to lasting peace and a resolution of issues so that the aspirations of all elements of Sri Lankan society are met,'' he said. Asked to clarify India's approach to the resolution of the conflict, the spokesman said, ``India believes the solution must be found within the framework of Sri Lanka's unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty.''

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