NEW DELHI: All ‘substantive’ issues related to reconciliation, including the 13th Amendment and the latest South African initiative were discussed in the first formal meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Professor G L Peiris, besides the perennial fishermen issue which was discussed at “some length”. After the two-hour meeting held on Friday afternoon, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said “all substantive issues” were on the table, including issues related to “accountability and reconciliation”.
During the meeting, Peiris also gave a “fairly detailed presentation of their own national efforts on accountability and reconciliation”.
A press release by the Sri Lankan High Commission did not use the words ‘accountability’ and ‘reconciliation’ used by the Indian side. Instead, it said Peiris “briefed his Indian counterpart on the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) process in Sri Lanka and the need to ensure its inclusiveness”.
It was a reference to Colombo’s traditional stance that PSC is the only vehicle to discuss the issue of reconciliation, but it has been boycotted by the Tamil National Alliance. Sri Lanka has been asking India to put pressure on TNA to join PSC process. This is not the first time that India and Sri Lanka have given different versions of same event. In the Lankan government’s press release of the Modi-Rajapaksa meeting, there had been no mention of the 13th Amendment. The South African initiative to explore the possibility of reconciliation based on the post-conflict experience of the African country was also discussed. Both Lanka and South Africa have kept India informed about the developments on this front.
Meanwhile, Peiris thanked the Swaraj for India’s vote against the operative Paragraph 10 of the UNHRC resolution in March. India had abstained on the resolution, but voted against the paragraph which aims to empower UNHRC to launch a probe against Lanka.
To a question on whether India supported the UNHRC’s move to put in place an investigation team, Akbaruddin referred to India’s vote.
The fishermen issue was “discussed at some length”, with both ministers expressing need for a “long-term solution”.
Swaraj, meanwhile, thanked Peiris for the Lankan government adopting a ‘fast-track’ process for repatriating Indian fishermen. As many as 805 Indian fishermen have been released so far this year, the highest in the last five years.
Economic ties were also part of the discussion, with reference to the Island Nation’s’s investment of $1 billion in a project to set up a garment city at Visakhapatnam, which will employ 60,000 people. Peiris invited Sushma Swaraj to visit Sri Lanka, which she accepted.