Rajapaksa to discuss Tamil ethnic problem, deepen eco ties

Sri Lankan President is to begin a three-day visit to India on Tuesday.

Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to discuss political solution to the Tamil ethnic problem besides inking key pacts to deepen economic ties with India during his landmark visit from Tuesday.

Rajapaksa, who will undertake his first three-day
state visit to India after his sweeping electoral victories,
will have talks on bilateral matters, including rehabilitation
of Tamil refugees, and regional and global issues.

The president is set to meet the Pro-LTTE Tamil
National Alliance (TNA) on the eve of his departure. This is
being seen as an effort by the government to get a feed back
on concrete measures to address the long-standing political
problem after the military victory over the LTTE last May.

The inputs of the meeting with TNA are likely to be
incorporated in his overall discussions with the Indian
leadership on the Tamil ethnic problem during his visit,
according to observers.

The political situation in the post-war scenario,
particularly the issues related to re-settlement of the
displaced Tamil civilians, and efforts by the government to
find a consensus on a political solution to the ethnic
conflict would be the focus of talks in New Delhi, they said.

Besides, the controversial Comprehensive Economic
Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is also likely to be given the
go-ahead even as controversies have dogged the proposed pact,
observers said.

Some people have opposed the pact and appealed to
Rajapaksa not to sign the CEPA during his India visit amid
fears that it would lead to loss of jobs.

Rajapaksa assured the protestors earlier this month
that he would not ink any agreement that goes against the
interest of Sri Lanka.

According to the Island newspaper, India and Sri Lanka
could sign at least five agreements during Rajapaksa’s visit.

In all, 11 agreements were being negotiated to enhance
bilateral cooperation, it said. But only five could be
finalised so far. Negotiations are continuing on the remaining
six agreements, which may be completed and signed later in the
year, the daily said.

The five agreements would include cooperation to fight
terrorism, transfer of sentenced prisoners, and for mutual
legal assistance in criminal matters. Agreements are also
expected to be signed on cultural cooperation and on Indian
assistance for small development projects in Sri Lanka, the
report said.

Among various assistance, India has announced a Line
of Credit of USD 425 million for reconstruction of the railway
infrastructure in the war-ravaged northern parts of the

India has been supplying 400,000 cement bags worth Sri
Lankan Rs 200 million (USD 1.75 million), which is part of the
SLRS 12.5 billion grant announced in May 2009 by New Delhi for
reconstruction activities.

India has also contributed huge quantities of
medicines and shelter material for those hit by the ethnic
conflict and farm packs to boost agriculture in the region.

Sri Lanka has asked for India`s help to develop the
Palaly air field and the Kanakesanthurai port (KKS port)
in Jaffna peninsula, as the country works to rebuild the
war-torn Tamil-dominated north.

"The Indian government’s help has been sought for
the development of the Palaly air field and the KKS port
projects. India has said it will consider providing assistance
for these ventures," a source in the Lankan government said.

Rajapaksa will inspect a military guard of honour at
the Rashtrapati Bhavan to kick-start a busy Wednesday when he
will also lay a wreath at the Raj Ghat.

He will then follow it up with a meeting with his
Indian counterpart Pratibha Patil and wide-ranging talks with
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Apart from his wife Shiranthi, Rajapaksa will be
accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs GL Peiris and
Sajin Vas Gunawardena, the President’s coordinating secretary
and MP from the Galle district and top officials.