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India asks Sri Lanka to ensure Tamils' safety

T V Sriram in Colombo | January 28, 2009 02:29 IST
Last Updated: January 28, 2009 09:55 IST

Hoping that the democratic process in Sri Lanka [Images] will expeditiously ameliorate the lot of the Tamils, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee [Images] has sought an assurance from the country that safety of civilians will be kept under consideration during the offensive against LTTE [Images].

As India's fears mounted for Tamil civilians trapped in the war zone in Sri Lanka, Mukherjee rushed to Colombo on Wednesday to discuss the situation with President Mahinda Rajapakse.

The Indian minister was told that the President has extended an invitation to Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo Jayalalaithaa to be part of a Tamil delegation to visit the war-ravaged northern parts of the country.

Rajapakse told the minister that the Tamil leaders should see for themselves the situation in the conflict zone.

"We have requested that the basic effort should be to help the civilians and ensure their safety and security," Mukherjee told media persons after his talks with the President.

Mukherjee told Rajapakse he will convey to Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa his interest that the two leaders from Tamil Nadu visit the island nation.

He also said that the democratic process in Sri Lanka should expeditiously ameliorate the lot of the Tamil civilians in the country.

The minister said that Rajapakse has assured that Sri Lanka will act as fast as possible to implement the 13th amendment for the power devolution package.

The talks took place as the LTTE fighters struggled to defend their last remaining strongholds in the northern part of the country.

Before leaving for Colombo, Mukherjee had told media persons in New Delhi [Images] that India had no sympathy for LTTE but wanted to see that civilian Tamils do not become victims of conflict.

The meeting took place at a time when the military claimed to have captured Mullaithivu, the last bastion of LTTE, and that its offensive was '95 per cent' complete.

Mukherjee said, "We are for fight against terrorists and all sorts of terrorism. Therefore, we have no sympathy for any terrorist activity indulged in by any organisation, particularly LTTE (which) is a banned organisation in India."

At the same time, he said India is concerned over the plight of civilians and "we shall have to see how civilians can be protected and they do not become hapless victims of the situation."

Pranab's visit comes in the backdrop of repeated demands by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and other political leaders that Mukherjee should be sent to Sri Lanka to ensure an end to military offensive against LTTE.

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