India on Tuesday assured Tamils displaced by the 30-year-old civil war in Sri Lanka's north of all possible assistance in their resettlement process, as Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao visited the war-ravaged towns and interacted with locals.
Rao, who is in Colombo on a four-day visit to overview the process of resettlement and rehabilitation of the displaced Tamils, also assured locals in Tamil-dominated Jaffna and Vavuniya that India stood with Sri Lanka in responding to the challenges.
"We are prepared to assist to the best of our capacity and do whatever we can," Rao told locals in Vavuniya, which houses the maximum number of displaced camps.
She also interacted with a number of displaced Tamils and saw for herself the welfare measures being implemented by the Sri Lankan Government in the camps.
Rao's visit came in the wake of demands from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief M Karunanidhi urging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to a send a special envoy to Sri Lanka to ask the government there to complete the resettlement process quickly.
The foreign secretary will also meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister G L Peiris on Thursday before flying home.
Nearly 3 lakh people were displaced by the war and over 2 lakh have been resettled by the government so far.
Rao also met with recently resettled families in the Kilinochchi, the former de-facto capital of the Tamil Tigers, and distributed toolkits, cement bags and roofing sheets to them.
In Jaffna, the cultural capital of the Tamils, Rao met met with a broad spectrum of civil society leaders and heard from them about the recent developments following the end of armed conflict, the Indian High Commission said in a statement.
In June 2009, India announced Rs 500 crore for relief and rehabilitation and resettlement in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka.
The immediate relief assistance last year included 2.5 lakh family relief packs which were mobilised by Tamil Nadu Government; deployment of an emergency field hospital for six months and two consignments of medicines for the use of the Internally Displaced Persons.
Rao also visited the Chetikulam Menik Farm IDP camp and interacted with the people lodged there.
The foreign secretary also inspected the de-mining programs in the North. In order to facilitate and enable rapid resettlement and rehabilitation of the IDPs, India has deployed seven de-mining teams in the neighbouring country.
India also sent three consignments of 2,600 MT each of shelter material and distributed 70,000 agricultural starters packs to revive agricultural activities. It had also gifted 55 buses to Northern, Eastern and Central Province besides conducting an artificial limb fitments camp.
India has announced construction of 50,000 houses for the IDPs in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka.
It is also assisting Sri Lanka in several infrastructural projects in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka including railway lines, harbour, cultural centre, stadium and vocational centres.
Rao is scheduled to visit Mullaittivu in the north and Trincomalee in the East tomorrow before returning to Colombo in the afternoon to interact with Tamil and other leaders.
Rao was accompanied by Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Ashok Kanta and Deputy High Commissioner Vikram Misri besides senior Sri Lankan officials.
Rao distributed another consignment of Indian assistance consisting of agricultural toolkits, roofing sheets and cement bags among recently resettled IDPs, at the Agrarian Services Centre in Omanthai.
They expressed their happiness that Government of India was readily coming forward to assist in the process of resettlement, the release said.
During her interaction in Jaffna, the Indian foreign secretary underlined that India stood with Sri Lanka in responding to the challenges posed by the task of resettlement and rehabilitation of the large number of IDPs resulting from the end of armed conflict in 2009.
In particular, she referred to the challenge posed by housing and noted that India had pledged to build 50,000 houses in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
She said Jaffna would be assisted through signature projects such as the Jaffna Cultural Center, Jaffna Teaching Hospital and the Duraiappah Stadium, the release said.
Rao emphasised that it was time to look to the future for the sake of the coming generations. She said India had always accorded high priority to the welfare of the people of Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka.
Rao later visited the site of the Cultural Centre in Jaffna that will be constructed with Indian assistance.
The Indian foreign secretary was shown three bunkers that had been constructed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Rao is visiting Jaffna after five years, the previous visit being in 2005 during Tsunami."Lot has happened since my last visit. I wish all of you a bright future. The people of Jaffna are close to my heart," Rao said on the occasion.