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'India must balance Tamils' interests & its security'
January 04, 2008 15:11 IST
India should strike a 'balance' between its efforts to secure rights of Tamils and protect its own security interests in Sri Lanka [Images] by preventing Pakistan and China from getting a 'foothold' in Colombo, a senior Tamil politician from the island nation said in Chennai.
Pakistan and China wooed Mahinda Rajapakse government with defence cooperation offers to fight the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, requiring India to strike a balance, Tharmalingam Sitharthan, heading the Peoples Liberation of Tamil Eelam, told PTI on Friday.
"If India feels Pakistan and China should be kept out of Sri Lanka, New Delhi should have a degree of defence cooperation to ensure island's own security," he said.
Sitharthan, a former militant-turned-politician opposed to the LTTE, was on a fortnight-long tour to India along with Anandasangaree, President of Tamil United Liberation Front and T Sritharam of Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front, to drum up support for moderate Tamil parties in Sri Lanka.
During the visit, which concluded on Friday, they held talks with several Indian officials including National Security Advisor M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon as well as senior political leaders.
Sitharthan, who was also a former member of Sri Lankan Parliament, said Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse for his part was keen to address India's political and security interests and concerns.
Having a defence cooperation with Colombo does not mean India should tone down its stand on securing the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils, Sitharthan said, adding New Delhi should press Rajapakse to come out with a 'constitutional package' to meet the aspirations of the island's Tamils.
"I understand that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] has been invited to be the guest of honour for the Sri Lanka's Independence Day celebrations on February 4. The government should continue to press Rajapakse to announce the package to accept the invitation," he said.
"If Dr Singh makes it to Colombo, which would be the first in several years, it would undoubtedly be a big blow to LTTE, which is why pro-LTTE parties in Tamil Nadu are objecting it," he said.
Sitharthan, however, clarified that he has not got any indication during talks with Indian officials whether a decision has been taken about the prime minister's visit.
However, there was a firm assurance from Narayanan that Indian government would be steadfast in pressing Sri Lanka to secure the rights of Tamils in the island, he said.
On the prevailing situation in North and East of the island, the strongholds of Tamils, Sitharathan, who hails from Vanni in the North where LTTE's headquarters was located, said the Tigers have suffered major reverses in the recent past and virtually lost East, especially after the defection of its top military commander, Karuna.
"LTTE is virtually wiped out from the East and is currently operating from only Northern Jafna Peninsula and Vanni jungles. The Tigers and also suffering due to relentless air raids by Sri Lankan Army," he said.
He said intelligence reports also suggest that Pottu Amman, the LTTE intelligence chief and a key accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, has been groomed by the outfit's chief Prabhakaran to succeed him if he gets killed.
On the allegations that LTTE now looked to acquire bases in Tamil Nadu to escape from pressure mounted by the island's army, he said that both Central and the Tamil Nadu governments took firm measures to prevent it.