The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India adds rider to Lanka aid

Colombo, June 11: India’s support for President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s proposed tsunami aid agreement with the Tamil Tigers should not be seen as an admission by New Delhi that the rebels are the “sole representative” of the Tamils in the country, foreign minister Natwar Singh said today.

The controversy over the distribution of tsunami aid to the Tigers has torn the country apart. The Janatha Vimukhthi Peramuna (JVP), a key ally of the ruling coalition, has threatened to withdraw support if Kumaratunga goes ahead with the agreement.

The influential Buddhist council, the Maha Sangha, has also criticised the agreement.

“While India has extended its support to President Kumaratunga’s efforts on the aid agreement, it has also stressed on the need for engaging a wide variety of political parties and opinions in Sri Lanka,” foreign secretary Shyam Saran said.

He said since post-tsunami relief work was needed in the northern and eastern part of the island, where the Tamil Tigers have a strong presence, India did not want to block the process by raising objections.

“But at every opportunity and interaction with the Sri Lankan government we have made it clear that our support to the aid effort should not be seen as an endorsement of accepting the Tigers as the sole representatives of the Tamils in the island,” Saran said.

“At the same time we have also suggested the need for a consensus among the Sri Lanka political parties not to allow the situation to relapse into violence,” the foreign secretary added.

Singh, who ended his three-day visit to Colombo this afternoon, has met Kumaratunga, Prime Minister Mahendra Rajapakshe, United National Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, JVP and Tamil National Alliance leaders and a faction of the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress.

“The wide range of his meetings is a clear indication that India was in favour of a political consensus that has emerged out of consultations with a large number of political opinions by the Sri Lankan government,” Saran said.

Interestingly, there appears to be a consensus among the political parties in Sri Lanka ' both within and outside the ruling coalition ' that India should play a significant role for the “economic prosperity and political stability” of the island nation.

But though India appreciates the sentiment, it is also aware of the possible perils of getting “too involved” in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

Monk ends fast

A senior Buddhist monk today ended his six-day fast after Kumaratunga assured him that monks will be consulted on the aid agreement with the Tamil Tigers.

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