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Trade and Tigers on Sinha list

New Delhi, Oct. 14: Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha will look to strengthen economic ties with Sri Lanka and reiterate support for Colombo’s attempts to talk peace with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during his upcoming visit to the island nation.

Sinha will co-chair the Indo-Sri Lanka Joint Commission meeting starting in Colombo tomorrow and is leading a high-level delegation. The commission is meeting after a five-year gap.

During his stay there, the minister is scheduled to meet President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her bitter rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Sinha will re-affirm India’s commitment to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and may suggest to Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe that they put aside their political differences to bring peace to the island.

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister has been slammed by his President for involving other countries into the attempt to resolve the two-decade-old ethnic problem. Wickremesinghe argues that the peace process has got rolling only because of foreign involvement.

India does not want to get drawn into the political crossfire or the peace process, but is keen to protect its growing economic interests on the island. To that end, it is keen to see peace return to Sri Lanka as soon as possible. Sinha is likely to convey India’s position to Colombo during the two days of the meeting.

Economic issues will take centrestage, but other matters of mutual interest are bound to be discussed during the meetings.

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