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Rao meets Rajapaksa, pushes for political solution

March 07, 2010 21:31 IST

India has assured Sri Lanka of its support to the process of resettlement and rehabilitation of Tamil civilians displaced due to the war and pushed for a political solution to the decades-old ethnic question.

In the first high-level contact between the two countries after the January-26 presidential polls in Sri Lanka, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao met President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday and assured India's support to the process of resettlement of the civilians.

A majority of the nearly 3 lakh Tamils have been sent back to their towns and villages from the welfare camps.

Rao, who met Rajapaksa over lunch at 'Janadhipathi Mandiraya' (President's House), congratulated him for his resounding victory in the January 26 presidential polls.

"She expressed India's willingness to continue assisting Sri Lanka in the resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons... India was also keen to assist in the complete restoration of the railway line in the North," an official statement from the Presidential Secretariat said.

Official sources said Rao also raised the issue of a political solution to the ethnic question in Sri Lanka with Rajapaksa.

"Among other issues, the prospects of holding a dialogue of reconciliation was also discussed," the sources said.

India is assisting Sri Lanka in relief and rehabilitation of the displaced Tamil civilians and has already allocated Rs 500 crore for this purpose.

New Delhi has also been nudging Colombo to quickly follow up the military victory with a political solution that satisfies the minority communities, especially Tamils.

Rao and Rajapaksa also discussed the problems being faced by fishermen of both the countries, besides other issues of bilateral interest.

The president and foreign secretary also discussed the proposed coal powered power project in Trincomalee and the necessity for understanding between the two countries on the issues of protection of environment and eco-system.

During the meeting, Rao also told Rajapaksa that his victory in the presidential polls would give a further boost to the bilateral ties.

Rajapaksa was of the view that Sri Lanka had made considerable success on the resettling of Tamil civilians in the North and the East, with the number now standing at less than 70,000," the statement said.

Rao told Rajapaksa that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh looked forward to an early visit by him to India.

About the political situation in Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa told Rao that the presence of more than 1,000 candidates in the forthcoming general election and the north and eastern provinces showed the enthusiasm of the people for the democratic process.

The Indian foreign secretary was in Sri Lanka to participate in the opening of the Sri-Lanka-India Centre of English Language Training at Peradeniya on the outskirts of Kandy.
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