India on Monday sought meaningful devolution of powers by Sri Lanka and the early resumption of dialogue to facilitate “genuine reconciliation” in Tamil-inhabited areas of the country.
“We hope that successful culmination of elections to the Northern Province will usher in a new beginning towards a better future for the people in the north. India has been consistent in calling for an early political settlement and national reconciliation through meaningful devolution of powers, so to ensure that all citizens of Lanka, including the Lankan Tamil community, would lead a life marked by equality, justice, dignity and self-respect,” said External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on his first visit here.
“India is committed to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. It is our hope that the vision and leadership that resulted in an end to armed conflict and holding of elections to the Northern Province, will now be employed to work for genuine reconciliation. The government of Sri Lanka has on many occasions conveyed to us and to the international community, its commitment to move towards a political settlement based on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, and building on it.”
“We look forward to an early resumption of the dialogue process, in order to address this issue in a timely manner. We will continue to work with the government of Sri Lanka, and help in whatever way we can, to take this process forward, in a spirit of partnership and cooperation,” Khurshid said.
Asked to spell out the details of a “meaningful” settlement, Khurshid said it would have to be a settlement that would be acceptable to everybody and which would be based on “consensus based on dialogue.”
Asked if India had set a deadline for arriving at a settlement he said that in such matters no deadlines could be set. “Only aspirations can be expressed,” he said. Moreover, it was for Lanka to decide what settlement it should go for, he added.
Talks on Fishing
On the question of fishermen, Khurshid said the representatives of fishermen of the two counties should meet “very quickly” to come to an understanding on fishing in the Palk Strait. “We will encourage and facilitate such a meeting,” he said.
Lankan Minister of External Affairs G L Peiris said that in the talks he held with Khurshid, he had stressed the need for India to take steps to “reduce” the intrusion of Indian vessels into Lankan waters. Sri Lankans complain that the Indian Coast Guard tends to turn a blind eye to Tamil Nadu boats crossing the IMBL into Lankan waters in the Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar.
Khurshid thanked the Lankan government for releasing arrested Indian fishermen, but did not mention the impounding of boats..
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The minister hailed the economic ties between the two countries and hoped that India and Sri Lanka would move towards a “Comprehensive Framework for Economic Cooperation”.
India and Sri Lanka on Monday signed all agreements relating to the setting up of the much-delayed 500 MW coal-fired power plant at Sampur in Eastern Sri Lanka. The agreements were signed by India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Lanka’s Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), the Board of Investment (BOI), and the Trincomalee Power Company (TPC).