India to press for political solution to Lankan Tamils issue: Sushma

SWAMYAfter striking positive notes with President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Friday reassured the Tamils of Sri Lanka that New Delhi would continue to prod Colombo for a political solution that would ensure equality and justice to them.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told a delegation of the Tamil members of the neighbouring country’s Parliament that India would continue to seek a political solution, which would “substantially address the aspiration” of the island nation’s ethnic minority “for equality, dignity, justice and self-respect” within “the framework of a united Sri Lanka”.

Sushma’s meeting with the delegation of Tamil MPs was Modi government’s first formal engagement with the leaders of the ethnic minority community of Sri Lanka.

She reassured the visiting MPs that New Delhi would continue to prod Colombo for implementation of the 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution to ensure devolution of power to the provincial governments in Tamil-majority North and East.

Rajapaksa had attended the swearing-in ceremony of the new BJP-led NDA government in New Delhi on May 26. The Sri Lankan President also had a meeting with the new Prime Minister of India on May 27 before flying back to Colombo.

The MPs’ delegation, which met External Affairs Minister in New Delhi on Friday, was led by veteran parliamentarian R Sampanthan of the Tamil National Alliance of Sri Lanka. “We have conveyed to her that India’s involvement in the resolution of the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is vital,” Sampanthan told journalists after meeting Sushma.

The delegation will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday. The TNA won 14 seats in Sri Lankan parliamentary elections in 2010. It swept last year’s elections in Northern Provincial Council securing 30 of the 38 seats.

Sampanthan alleged that the Sri Lankan government was deliberately changing the demographic composition of hitherto Tamil-majority Northern and Eastern provinces of the country.  “We have explained the position currently prevalent on the ground in the North and the East. The difficulties people are facing, the aggressive program implemented by the Sri Lankan government to change the demographic composition of the northern and eastern provinces and the cultural and linguistic identity of the areas,” he said.