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Nothing secret about Pranab's visit, says Lanka government

T V Sriram in Colombo | January 29, 2009 15:43 IST

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Scotching speculation about External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's [Images] unscheduled visit to the country, Sri Lanka [Images] on Thursday said there was nothing 'secret' about it, which was aimed at further strengthening bilateral relations and to support efforts against terrorism.

"There seems to be many theories emanating about Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit. There is nothing sensational. It was a normal visit," a senior Sri Lankan minister told reporters in reply to a query.

Leader of House in Sri Lankan Parliament and Healthcare and Nutrition Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva said Mukherjee's visit was to further strengthen the good relations between India and Sri Lanka and express its support for eradicating terrorism.

"There is nothing secret about Pranab Mukherjee's visit," the minister said, adding that India itself was very keen and supportive in eradicating terrorism, of which it has been a victim.

"I was there in India when the Mumbai [Images] terror attacked took place. I found that Indian politicians are committed in eradicating terrorism," De Silva said after the Cabinet meeting.

Mukherjee had rushed to Colombo on Tuesday to discuss the latest situation in the northern part of the island nation. His visit came in the wake of strong demands by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and some other parties from the state that Mukherjee should visit Sri Lanka and prevail upon the government to seek a ceasefire with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

During his talks with President Mahinda Rajapakse, Mukherjee sought an assurance from him that the safety of civilians will be kept under consideration during the offensive against LTTE [Images].

India and Sri Lanka have 'very close' friendship and share a very good relationship, De Silva said.

Minister of Mass Media and Information Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said different versions had cropped up on Pranab Mukherjee's visit and that it was a normal and routine visit to further strengthen bilateral ties.

During Mukherjee's visit, the Sri Lankan government had reassured India that it would respect the 'safe zones' and minimise the effects of conflict on Tamil civilians.

Mukherjee also conveyed India's readiness to participate in the reconstruction of northern Sri Lanka 'to overcome the ravages of war' and also to 'lay the economic and political foundations of a strong peace in which all communities feel comfortable' in the island nation.

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