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DateLine Tuesday, 22 January 2008

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News: Three more held in Tamil Nadu for helping Tigers ...        Political: APRC proposals need of the hour - Rajitha ...       Business: Global action over maritime security cripples LTTE ...        Sports: Young Australian guns to tackle Sri Lanka ...

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Towards a political solution

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has reiterated the significance of close relations between Sri Lanka and India. As the President explained to a group of foreign journalists on Saturday, ties between the two SAARC neighbours have been growing steadily over the years.

According to many observers, diplomatic links between the two countries have never been better and the last time the relations reached such a peak was when the Sirima-Shastri Pact was signed. President Rajapaksa is having regular interactions with India on a variety of issues including the ethnic crisis.

The President has lauded India's tough anti-terrorism policy and its avowed commitment to Lanka's sovereignty and territorial integrity. On the issue of terrorism, it must be borne in mind that India was one of the first countries to ban the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

LTTE terrorism has gravely affected India as well. Its former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by the LTTE in 1991. The LTTE has committed several other killings on Indian soil, including that of EPRLF leader Pathmanaba.

Apart from the LTTE, India has to contend with several other terrorist and militant groups and Indian leaders know perfectly well that any country suffering the adverse effects of terrorism should not hesitate to take appropriate action in the interest of maintaining national security.

It is in this context that one should appreciate Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's comment that Sri Lanka is well within her rights to take action against terrorism.

Many other countries have shied away from directly saying so. India's bold policy on terrorism, perpetrated by the LTTE or any other group, is thus an example to the rest of the region and to the world.

The geographical proximity of the two countries and the porous nature of the maritime border means that the LTTE cadres can infiltrate the Southern Indian States, especially Tamil Nadu, quite easily. The two Navies cannot be everywhere in such a vast sea area and the LTTE is quite adept at playing the innocent fishermen card as well.

In fact, a 'red alert' has been sounded over increasing LTTE infiltration and activity in Tamil Nadu by Indian defence authorities. According to conservative estimates, the level of infiltration has increased by around three times. The LTTE is also said to be raising funds in the State through forged credit cards and other such methods.

This assumption is proved beyond any doubt by the recent wave of arrests of hardcore LTTE cadres and sympathisers, both Sri Lankan and Indian. Two more LTTE suspects have been arrested on Sunday in Tamil Nadu. Earlier, Chennai Police arrested the LTTE's intelligence chief in Tamil Nadu. But from India's point of view, the most dangerous aspect was that they were allegedly planning to assassinate EPRLF's Vartharaja Perumal and Minister Douglas Devananda on Indian soil.

In this context, Indian defence authorities have been advised to be extremely careful and alert as this could only be the tip of the iceberg as far as LTTE activity in the State is concerned. Indian Security Forces are taking counter measures to neutralise LTTE threats, including constructing more coastal security stations and deploying additional vessels for surveillance. Both India and Sri Lanka should also consider joint patrolling in the Palk Strait to stop LTTE gun running and human trafficking.

India's help and blessings will be needed as Sri Lanka seeks to crush LTTE terrorism and evolve a political solution. Although it may not play a direct role, it is striving to curb LTTE activities. Sri Lanka has kept India informed of the developments at the All Party Representative Committee (APRC), which is due to hand over its proposals to President Rajapaksa tomorrow.

Both India and Sri Lanka agree that the ultimate solution to the conflict is a political one. President Rajapaksa has stressed time and again that his Government is committed to a permanent political solution. The military strategy has been pointed out as a means to weaken the LTTE and nudge it towards the negotiating table. It must not be viewed as an entirely military option that precludes peace talks and a political solution.

With the military gaining victories over the LTTE on one hand and the APRC process gaining momentum on the other, there is every hope that this year would turn out to be a decisive one for peace prospects in Sri Lanka.

First: Tamil unity a must
Next: Southern consensus

As Sri Lankans, it is our bounden duty to uphold the foundation and procedures of our democracy to achieve the noble objective of a national character. The Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is eager to place a solution to the crisis in the coming days. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past. The Head of State cannot be dictated to, as he holds the prerogative to place a solution before all political parties and the people for discussion to arrive at a final solution acceptable to all sections of this multi ethnic society.

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