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Chandrika shares talks concerns

New Delhi, April 10: Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has reportedly expressed concern here over the Colombo-LTTE peace talks’ failure to discuss “core issues”.

She is said to have doubted the Tamil Tigers’ commitment to finding a negotiated settlement to the decade-long ethnic strife in the island nation.

Kumaratunga, who has been in Delhi for the past few days, met several senior Indian leaders, including President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who hosted a private lunch in her honour.

She also met deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, foreign minister Yashwant Sinha, finance minister Jaswant Singh and leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi. The focus of her discussions with all the leaders was the progress of her country’s peace talks. Foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said Kumaratunga shared her perceptions of and concerns about the talks.

Kumaratunga has been publicly articulating her concern over the “regrouping” and “rearming” of the LTTE.

In private conversations, she reportedly told the Indian leaders that so far the LTTE had not made any categoric statement, either on autonomy or surrender of arms or the proposed unitary Constitution that will allow the Sinhalas and the Tamils to coexist peacefully.

Delhi, perhaps, shares many of her concerns, particularly the peace talks’ lack of progress on any important issue.

But it also finds solace in the Lankan government and the LTTE’s continued negotiations, which have not broken down so far.

Sarna repeated Delhi’s stand that it was committed to Lanka’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and wanted a negotiated settlement that would meet the “aspirations of all sections” in the island nation.

The LTTE’s regrouping bothers India as much as it does Kumaratunga for the Tamil Tigers have come to the negotiating table several times in the past to ease the pressure on them, only to back out just when a solution was within reach.

For the moment, however, neither India nor Sri Lanka has an option. So both sides are emphasising the talks’ continuation, without any failures, which means all is not lost.

Delhi has decided to participate in next week’s “briefing meeting” of donor countries, in Washington, which will contribute to the rebuilding of strife-torn Lanka. The meeting will be jointly chaired by Lanka and the US.

Though the LTTE will not be present at this meeting, the outfit is a constant source of worry and embarrassment for Delhi. Sarna repeated this afternoon that the LTTE was a banned organisation in India.

Sources, however, said the Centre’s stand was repeated with an eye on reassuring the domestic audience, or at least the Congress, that Delhi’s position on the LTTE has not changed.

India has charged the Tamil Tigers of masterminding and executing the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.

According to agency reports from Chennai, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa discussed on the phone with the Prime Minister -- before his meeting with Kumaratunga -- the early repatriation of Lankan refugees from her state and their resettlement in the island nation.

Jayalalithaa also emphasised the need to resolve the problem of Lankan fishermen attacking their Tamil Nadu counterparts near the international boundary line.

The state government issued a statement, saying Vajpayee rang up Jayalalithaa to seek her views on issues of mutual concern between India and Lanka, particularly in reference to Tamil Nadu.

Jayalalithaa had met Kumaratunga on April 7 during her Chennai detour on the way to Delhi.

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