COLOMBO: It is three weeks since a high-level Indian delegation arrived in the island for closed-door discussions with Sri Lanka’s leaders, but the reverberations from the visit still continue with Sri Lanka’s Marxist-cum-Nationalist party, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) slamming India for ‘its invasive dictatorial foreign policy’. Indian diplomatic sources in Colombo have stated that the meeting focused ‘mainly’ on the security considerations of the upcoming Saarc summit to be held in Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, the government has staunchly denied that India’s three top most bureaucrats, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh who met President Rajapakse, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse and Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunge had applied pressure to stop the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels.
The government denial of Indian pressure came as the JVP accused the Indian government of wanting the military campaign against the LTTE stopped at a time when the Tiger rebels were weakened and many key guerilla camps in the north taken over by government troops.
Sri Lankan officials have dismissed the unprecedented heights to which media speculations reached regarding the recent visit of the Indian delegates, with some reports stating that thousands of Indian troops will arrive in the country.
“It is the usual practice for the Indian prime minister to travel with a contingent of troops as part of his personal security and it is this which was blown out of proportion in some media reports,” a government official said.
On condition of anonymity sources however admitted that the visiting Indian delegation did express serious concern in many areas which focused mostly on the military onslaught carried out by the government in the LTTE-controlled territory. Delhi had wanted political proposals to be finalised by Sri Lanka to end the 30-year-old ethnic conflict. Sources say the island’s neighbour had brought the attention of President Mahinda Rajapakse to alleged statements by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama asking India not to involve itself in matters concerning Sri Lanka.
Reports also point out that the Indian bureaucrats had expressed reservations towards Sri Lanka’s continuing arms procurements from Pakistan and China as well as the island’s recently strengthened ties with Iran.
While speculation still continues as to the ‘true nature’ of the Indian visit to Sri Lanka that purportedly discussed only security considerations at the Saarc summit, latest reports from Delhi state that India is planning to open the doors of its different military institutions to train Sri Lankan soldiers.
According to reports, over 500 officers and other ranks will receive training in institutions ranging from Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare to specialised naval courses in gunnery, navigation, communication and anti-submarine warfare.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary group leader of the pro LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA), R. Sampanthan expressed ‘sadness’ that alleged human rights violations by the government had been ‘ignored’ by India.
Alliance sources say they want India to have a more ‘direct approach’ aimed at a political solution in Sri Lanka, in a background where the LTTE is facing severe hardships in the battlefield with government troops carrying out a fierce offensive to fully capture LTTE-controlled northern territory. Nearly a year after the Tamil Tigers were ousted from the east, government officials on Friday said most rebel-held areas in North western Mannar had been retaken by the military as heavy battles continue.