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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

‘India doing its bit for Tamil civilians in Lanka’

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday made a suo motu statement on the situation in Sri Lanka...

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: February 19, 2009 12:45:17 am

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday made a suo motu statement on the situation in Sri Lanka,terming the condition of the Tamil civilians a “serious cause for concern”. He said India was assisting with relief material and was engaged in the process of bringing peace to the island nation.

“A serious cause for concern to us has been the condition of civilians and internally displaced persons,mostly Tamil,caught up in the zone of conflict,” Mukherjee told Parliament. “Estimates on the number of civilians trapped vary but 70,0000 or so are estimated to be there now.”

He added that “our strong concerns for the safety,security and welfare of civilians caught in the conflict have led us to stay actively engaged to prevent further deterioration of humanitarian conditions”.

“Two batches of relief assistance have been sent so far including 80,000 family packs of food and non-food articles…. Another batch of relief materials is being sent,” he said.

Mukherjee said he visited Colombo on January 27 and took up the matter with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa,asking him to announce a 48-hour safe passage for civilians to secure areas.

“India continues to support a negotiated political settlement in Sri Lanka,” he said.

“The LTTE remains a proscribed organisation in India and has done much damage to the Tamil community. I wish to assure the hon’ble members that the government will continue to stay engaged in the process of bringing enduring peace to Sri Lanka working with the government of Sri Lanka and the various communities,” his statement said.

The statement,however,did not cut much ice with members in Parliament. While in the Lok Sabha the DMK,PMK and AIADMK members stood up in protest,in the Rajya Sabha the AIADMK and CPI(M) members raised objections. The CPI’s D Raja asked Mukherjee for a clarification on whether the Indian government has asked Sri Lanka to stop the war and whether or not it is providing logistic support to the Lankan army.

Other CPI members asked the minister if the government would move the UN Security Council. AIADMK member K Malaisamy asked Mukherjee if India would be taking some coercive steps.

“I share the members’ anguish over the issue but for over three decades we have been working with Sri Lanka and telling them that military actions are not a solution,” Mukherjee clarified.

“I am speaking with the international community to put pressure… as far as the UNSC is concerned,it is fully aware of the situation.”

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