Jan. 27: Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee today left on a two-day visit to Colombo as Sri Lankan troops tightened their grip on Mullaitivu, captured from the Tamil Tigers on Sunday after 12 years.
The visit is being seen as a face-saver for the governments Tamil Nadu ally DMK, which has been insisting that Delhi must convey Indias concern on the civilian fallout of the war to Colombo and try to broker truce.
Government sources said Mukherjee was expected to reiterate the twin Indian demands for devolution of power to ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka and the extradition of Tiger chief Prabhakaran in connection with Rajiv Gandhis assassination.
He is also expected to call for rebuilding war-ravaged northern and eastern parts of the island nation.
The sources said India was essentially making the point that it was against terrorism, but it did not believe military action was a solution to the ethnic conflict.
We are for the fight against terrorists and all sorts of terrorism… we have no sympathy for any terrorist activity indulged in by any organisation, and particularly the LTTE, which is a banned organisation in India, Mukherjee said before taking off for Colombo.
But we are concerned about the plight of the civilians… we shall have to see how civilians can be protected and do not become hapless victims of the situation.
DMK chief M. Karunanidhi has been insisting that Delhi convey this concern to the Sri Lankan government. The Tamil Nadu government has passed three resolutions in the Assembly, but so far Delhi has not taken concrete action.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had, however, assured Karunanidhi that Mukherjee would be sent to Colombo after he threatened to withdraw support.
Reports from Chennai said Karunanidhi today got himself admitted to a private hospital ostensibly for treatment of a persisting backache that has made it difficult for him to walk. The sources suggested the real reason might have been to pressure the Centre and avoid having to face a hostile Assembly.
Karunanidhis daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP, last week spoke to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi over the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka, the sources said.
Mukherjee, too, said Tamil Nadu parties had met the Prime Minister and urged him to look into the sad plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
At that point of time, he said he may send me to Sri Lanka.
Mukherjee is expected to meet Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama to discuss the latest situation in the northern part of Sri Lanka, the sources said.
The foreign ministers visit came on a day the Sri Lankan army announced that the fall of Mullaitivu meant 95 per cent of the war against the Tigers was over. Sources, however, said the army did not have any information on Prabhakarans whereabouts.