India lauds safe passage
Offer to Northern civilians:
India on Thursday lauded the Sri Lankan Government’s announcement of
granting a safe passage to civilians trapped in the northern parts of
the island and hoped that the conditions of civilians will improve in
days to come.
Shiv Shankar Menon
“The Government of India welcomes this important announcement and
hopes that with the implementation of these steps, the condition of the
civilians caught up in the conflict, will improve,” Foreign Secretary
Shiv Shankar Menon told reporters late Thursday night.
Menon was reacting to the announcement by President Mahinda Rajapaksa
that he has urged the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to allow
free movement of civilians trapped in northern areas to ensure their
safety and security.
“We are happy to see the steps that are being taken by Sri Lanka and
we hope that all these civilians would now be able to move to safety,”
Menon said while stressing that the safety of civilians figured
prominently in discussions between External Affairs Minister Pranab
Mukherjee with President Rajapaksa when the former visited Colombo this
“And for all the civilians, he (Rajapaksa) has assured a safe passage
to a secure environment and also assured all those living in the
northern and conflict areas in particular, that vacating the LTTE-held
areas will ensure their physical security and enable peace, freedom and
rights for all citizen of the country,” Menon said.
“We understand that necessary instructions to this effect, to enable
the implementation of these steps, have been given,” he added.
Menon’s remarks come amid concerns expressed after political parties
in Tamil Nadu about the plight of Tamil civilians caught in the conflict
between the government troops and the LTTE.
When Mukherjee visited Colombo on Tuesday, President Rajapaksa told
him that he had invited Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and
AIDMK leader J. Jayalalitha to Sri Lanka to persuade the Tigers to lay
down their arms and enter into the democratic mainstream.
Mukherjee said the humanitarian situation in the northern war-zone
came up for discussion and President Rajapaksa assured him that his
Government would minimise civilian sufferings.
“In course of our discussions, President Rajapaksa agreed to expand
the safe zones and also ensure that there is no shelling, firing in the
safe zone,” Mukherjee told reporters in New Delhi soon his return on
“He (Rajapaksa) appealed to all concerned to allow the civilians to
go to the safe zones so that food, shelter, medicine and safety could be
provided to them,” he said.
“We further requested and the President agreed to ensure that the
relief material, which we are sending, reaches the persons who are
affected by the impact of this conflict,” Mukherjee had said.