India’s National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon on Friday held discussions on a wide range of issues of mutual interest with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa. The only other person Menon met during his very brief visit to the Lankan capital was the Tamil National Allianceeader R Sampanthan. This was to underscore India’s special interest in the Tamil question.
Briefing correspondents of Indian media institutions at the end of the talks, Menon said that it was for the Lankan government to bring about ethnic reconciliation and a political settlement of the Tamil question, and that the quicker it moved in these fields, the better it would be for Sri Lanka.
“While this is a Sri Lankan issue and something that Sri Lanka has to do, we (India) will continue to remain engaged with all concerned and offer any support required in this regard,” he added.
Lanka Sensitive to India
Menon said that the Sri Lankan side was aware of India’s importance to Lanka in the context of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which Lanka would have to face in November at the UNHRC in Geneva.
India is among the three countries which would be overseeing this comprehensive review. The other two countries are Spain and Benin. Menon said that Tamil concerns over the militarisation of the Tamil-speaking Northern Province and the delay in holding polls to Northern Provincial Council were discussed. The Lankan side briefed him about steps being taken in the field of political reconciliation and a political settlement of the Tamil question. Elections to the Northern Province (not held since 1988) were promised but no date was mentioned, Menon said.
Asked whether he was satisfied with the responses of the Lankan leaders, Menon said that he would not like to be “judgmental” because the problems were long-standing ones. They were also essentially Sri Lankan problems which ought to be sorted out by the Sri Lankans themselves. However, India would be ready to help Lanka solve them in a spirit of good neighbourliness, he added.
In the context of the accusation by the Sinhalese majority that the Tamil National Alliance had begun to talk of secession, Menon told the Lankan leaders that India was opposed to separatism.
On the fishermen issue both sides agreed that the practical arrangements of October 2008 should be adhered to until an alternative mechanism was agreed upon.
TNA leader R Sampanthan told that he had a very fruitful meeting with Menon and was happy that the Indian NSA had taken up with the Lankan top brass, all matters worrying the Tamils.