The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India sees limited role in Lanka

Colombo, Dec. 9 (PTI): India today ruled out greater involvement in the Sri Lanka peace process.

“Legal complexities” concerning the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and its leader V. Prabhakaran stood in the way, said foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal. “The legal complexities are such that our options are certainly limited,” said Sibal, who is here to get a first-hand account of the peace process.

He said that logically India should be involved, but the ban on the LTTE, its hand in Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and the pending extradition proceedings against Prabhakaran have to be considered.

“Everybody realises India has a key role. We are keeping ourselves informed,” Sibal said. He disagreed with the view that India was totally aloof from the proceedings.

India continued to support the peace initiative and welcomed the “positive features”, Sibal said. The Centre, he said, has noted that both the Sri Lanka government and the Opposition felt there was “forward movement” in the latest round of talks in Oslo.

India had been emphasising the country’s unity, democracy, human rights and pluralism. “It is up to the Sri Lankan government to ensure these,” Sibal said.

“These are the principles that have emerged in Oslo,” he said, referring to Sri Lanka’s and LTTE’s decision to explore the possibility of a federal solution and incorporate human rights protection and pluralism as part of the peace efforts.

“India supports a peaceful negotiated settlement that meets the aspirations of all elements of the Sri Lankan society, besides ensuring that the principles of democracy, pluralism and human rights are respected on the ground,” said a statement released here by the Indian mission.

According to Sibal, Sri Lanka was indeed taking note of India’s concerns. “The Sri Lankan government is very receptive to whatever we tell them. I don’t think there’s any difficulty at all on that score.”

Sibal said “some positive signals have come from Oslo”, but it was still early in the peace negotiations to be absolutely certain. “The race has just started, and they have covered only a small distance. Let us see what the rest of the race brings,” Sibal said.

He is scheduled to meet tomorrow President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, foreign minister Tyronne Fernando, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauf Hakeem and leaders of the Tamil parties.

Sibal said he had a “useful and illuminating” discussion on the peace process with economic reforms minister Milinda Moragoda, one of the government’s negotiators.

On reports that the LTTE had bought broadcasting equipment that could beam signals to south India, Sibal said it needed to be verified if it was an FM broadcasting system — normally limited in range — or had a longer range. If a longer range is detected, “we will have to evaluate it differently”, Sibal said.

On the next Saarc summit, the foreign secretary said though India had not agreed to the dates proposed, it’s participation at a later date could not be ruled out. India’s stand, he said, was that the Saarc process was currently “empty” on the economic front. “We are waiting for Pakistan to give content to it.”

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