8:57 AM

President takes up Lankan issue with Indian PM

President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday made a special telephone call to Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to allay increasing Indian concerns that civilians in the north are allegedly coming to harm due to the current military drive to defeat the LTTE, The Nation reliably learns.
Tiger proxies in Tamil Nadu have been pressing the central government in recent days, to intervene on behalf of the Tamils, to halt the military drive and threatening to pull out support to the ruling coalition government, if it fails to comply with their request. The ruling coalition has been weakened, since the left parties pulled out their support in protest over the nuclear deal with the US.

Sources said that, the President, who spoke to the Indian Premier in the presence of Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga around 1:00 pm, had requested Dr Singh to send his Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Sri Lanka, in order to get a firsthand account of the prevailing situation here.
Soon after the conversation between the two leaders, Mr. Bogollagama had extended a formal invitation to his counterpart in Delhi, to make an early visit to Sri Lanka

The President had given a detailed account to Dr Singh, on painstaking steps taken to avoid civilian casualties and also to maintain essential supplies to war affected areas, as was done during the successful operation to capture the East.
He had emphasised that, the war is being conducted with minimum collateral damage to property and persons, bearing well in mind the welfare of the civilian population in the Wanni region.

As for the repeated request of the Indians to place a political solution to resolve the problem, President Rajapaksa had assured that it would be extended no sooner the LTTE was disarmed.
President Rajapaksa had also expressed concern of the difficult position Dr Singh’s government was placed in due to increasing agitations in Tamil Nadu over the Sri Lankan problem and had assured full cooperation to his government to tackle the issue.
President Rajapaksa had also proposed solving the fishing disputes between the two countries through regular, close consultations between the Navies of the two countries.

In recent days, senior Sri Lankan diplomats, serving in India, have been summoned by the Indian National Security Advisor and the Foreign Secretary, to express their concerns over happenings in the north of Sri Lanka. On Friday, Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, Alok Prasad, also called on Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama with similar concerns.
Sources said that, even prior to yesterday’s telephone conversation between the two leaders, the Government had decided to send Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa to India next week, to explain to the Indians, Sri Lanka’s position, with a special message from the President.

Meanwhile, the Press Trust of India report on the discussion between the two leaders stated: “Amid mounting pressure from ally DMK and other Tamil Nadu parties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday asked Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to ensure that Tamils do not get “enmeshed” in the conflict with the LTTE and that, their rights and safety are upheld.
“During a telephonic conversation initiated by Rajapaksa, Singh said there could be no military solution to the conflict in the island country, and asked the President to start a political process for a peacefully negotiated settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said.

“The Prime Minister also asked Rajapaksa to instruct the Sri Lankan Navy to desist from firing on Indian fishermen, saying their killing is “unacceptable”, the PMO said in a statement.
“Rajapaksa assured Singh that “all necessary measures” are being taken to ensure safety and wellbeing of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, it said.
“Singh emphasised that the “safety and the security of these civilians must be safeguarded at all costs.”