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India sidesteps LTTE air strike
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | March 28, 2007 23:08 IST
India on Wednesday treaded with caution and reserve while reacting to the Tamil Tigers' air strike on the Sri Lankan Air Force base at Katunayake airport on Sunday.
"We are very concerned at the escalation of violence in Sri Lanka in the last few weeks. The incident is one part of the violent incidents that we have seen. The humanitarian consequences really worry us, when you see thousands of internally displaced people," Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon said.
Media reports have estimated that 1.5 lakh people have been displaced in the northeast region of the island in the recent weeks as a result of the Sri Lankan military operations against the LTTE.
"We will join the voice within Sri Lanka and abroad who would hope that violence comes to an end soon and that they can find a solution to this conflict, a solution that enables all the communities in Sri Lanka to live together in peace," Menon added.
Some sections of the international media have alleged that death squads have been indulging in atrocities against innocent Tamil civilians in the recent weeks.
Menon insisted that a solution to the conflict is the real issue.
He underplayed the air strike by the LTTE, and said, "To pick on an individual incident of violence will not help solve the root cause of the problem. The root cause of the problem is the conflict that has escalated the violence in last few weeks."
India has repeatedly called for a resumption of the stalled peace talks despite what observers have seen as the Sri Lankan government's growing emphasis on seeking a military solution to the ethnic conflict.
Menon avoided responding to a query on whether LTTE's air power as such posed a threat to India.
Sri Lankan government spokesmen have been saying that the LTTE's air capability posed a threat to other countries in the region, especially India and Indonesia.
But according to various reports, the Sri Lankan government has been involving security personnel from other countries in conducting its own military operations against the LTTE.
Pakistan, Israel and Ukraine have been mentioned in this connection. Some reports have mentioned that Ukrainian mercenary pilots have flown the Sri Lankan aircraft conducting bombing raids in the LTTE-held regions in the northeast of the island in recent weeks.
Conceivably, India would be watching the growing foreign military presence in Sri Lanka with a sense of disquiet.
Colombo has blamed the radar installed by India at the Katunayake airbase for their security failure on Sunday to detect and intercept the intruding LTTE aircraft.
But Menon summarily rejected this. "As far as we know, there was no scope of the Indian radars failing," he said.
Menon revealed that Sri Lanka has told India that it wishes to raise the issue of terrorism at the forthcoming SAARC summit meeting scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 3 and 4 April.
Menon said a SAARC Convention on suppression on terrorism and an additional protocol related to action against financing of the terrorism already exist.
He explained, "We will have to see whether what we have done is sufficient or we need to do more. Terrorism is an issue that concerns all of us."