The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi ready for Lanka meet

New Delhi, April 8: India has decided to participate in a forthcoming meeting in Washington that the Sri Lankan government has initiated to get political and economic support from key international players on the peace process in the island.

Nearly 30 countries that provide aid to Sri Lanka would participate in the meeting, which would be co-chaired by US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and Sri Lanka’s minister for economic reform, science and technology Milinda Moragoda.

South Block’s decision to send Neelam Deo, joint secretary, Bangladesh-Sri Lanka-Maldives division in the foreign ministry, for the April 14 meeting has come at a time when Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga is in the country.

Kumaratunga is scheduled to meet her Indian counterpart, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the next two days. She would also meet deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, foreign minister Yashwant Sinha and leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi.

Indications suggest that the progress in the peace process between Colombo and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and Kumaratunga’s rivalry with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are likely to come up for talks between the two sides.

India had sent a low-level official to the last meeting on the peace process in Norway. One of the main reasons for this was the LTTE’s presence.

With a red-corner notice pending before Interpol against LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran for his alleged role in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the ruling BJP did not want to send any signal that could be interpreted as an attempt to establish links with the Tigers.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna made it clear that India had decided to send a senior official for the meeting in the US because the LTTE would not take part. “It is a briefing meeting where key countries would be informed about the progress of the peace process by the Sri Lankan government,” he said.

A statement issued by the Sri Lankan government said “representatives of the governments of Germany, India, Japan, Norway and the United Kingdom have already confirmed their participation” for the meeting. It added that this would be the first time that India would participate in a meet concerning the peace process that began last year.

According to the statement, the meeting would discuss the need for development and re-construction assistance and how that could help consolidate the ceasefire and reinforce the peace process.

It pointed out that the US meet would be a precursor to the “Tokyo Conference on reconstruction and development of Sri Lanka”, to be hosted by Japan in June.

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