India, U.S. urged 'rethink' on LTTE

COLOMBO APRIL 9. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has called upon India and the U.S. to "rethink" their policies on the organisation banned by both the countries. "Our wish is that India should forget the bitterness that existed between us in the past and work with us to bring a just solution for our people's suffering," the LTTE's chief negotiator, Anton S. Balasingham, reportedly told a gathering of Tamil expatriates in Geneva.

According to a report in the Tamil Guardian, "acknowledging that India had legitimate concerns in promoting the Sri Lankan peace process", Mr. Balasingham said this could not be achieved by alienating the LTTE and establishing relations with Tamil paramilitaries and political parties opposed to the LTTE and the peace efforts".

Though a consistent call by the Tigers, the latest position gains significance ahead of the April 14 preparatory conference to be held in Washington in support of the peace process. The LTTE has not been invited for the conference. India, which did not send a delegation to an earlier donors' conference, confirmed its participation after the U.S. made it clear that the Tigers were not invited.

The LTTE is banned in India since the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and its leader, V. Prabakaran, is among those wanted by Indian courts to stand trial in the case. It may be recalled that at a press conference on April 10 last year, Mr. Balasingham and Mr. Prabakaran had termed the assassination a "tragic event" and wanted India to "forgive and forget".

At the meeting in Geneva, Mr. Balasingham reportedly said: "If India truly wishes the Tamil people to achieve a just and lasting settlement and wants to help end this conflict, it should have positive relations with the Tigers and our leadership."

India, which has backed attempts to restore peace through a negotiated settlement, does not accept the LTTE's claim of being the sole representative of the Tamils. In Geneva, Mr. Balasingham reportedly said, "the Tamil people are behind the LTTE as one and are giving us their total support".