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Sri Lanka’s special envoy arrives in India for talks


New Delhi : Amid growing concern in India about the military offensive in the island nation, Sri Lankan presidential adviser Basil Rajapaksa arrived here Saturday to assure Indian leaders about steps taken to safeguard Tamils trapped in the war zone.

Rajapaksa, a brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and senior adviser to him, will hold talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Sunday on the situation in Sri Lanka in the light of the military thrust against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Rajpapksa will also meet National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and discuss with them Colombo’s perspective on the military action.

He is likely to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who returns home after midnight Saturday after attending the Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM) in Beijing.

India is likely to reiterate its position that Sri Lanka should shun a military solution and respect the legitimate rights of the minorities, the Tamils included, an official source said.

The issue of finding practical arrangements to prevent incidents of firings by the Sri Lankan Navy on Indian fishermen will also figure in a big way in the discussions between the two sides.

With Tamil Nadu MPs creating a storm over the military offensive in Sri Lanka, India has sent repeated messages to Colombo in the past 10 days to ensure the safety of Tamil civilians caught in the crossfire.

“We have emphasised to the Sri Lankan government that the safety and the security of the civilians must be safeguarded at all costs and that food and essential supplies be allowed to reach them unhindered,” Mukherjee had told parliament Wednesday.

“The rights and the welfare of the Tamil community of Sri Lanka should not get enmeshed in the ongoing hostilities against the LTTE,” he stressed after 15 MPs of DMK, a key ally of the Manmohan Singh government and the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, submitted resignations to the party chief over the situation in Sri Lanka.