New Delhi (PTI): Two Tamil parties, including a UPA constituent, on Wednesday created ruckus in Lok Sabha by seeking India’s intervention to stop the military offensive in Sri Lanka but the government rejected it even as it asked Colombo to seek a political settlement rather than military solution.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee made it clear in Parliament that India cannot force a sovereign government of another country to take a particular line.
He denounced the LTTE, saying it had caused “much damage” to the Tamil community and asked it to lay down arms as there is a political opportunity after 23 years to restore normalcy in northern Sri Lanka.
Responding to concerns voiced by various Tamil members, Mukherjee said India is worried about the humanitarian situation and wants the conflict to end. He underlined the need for the government and LTTE to resume negotiations. He said India is ready to assist in reconstruction and development in north and eastern Sri Lanka even as he asserted that New Delhi has never given military hardware to Colombo.
Mukherjee made suo motu statements on the situation in Sri Lanka in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha but PMK, a constituent of UPA, and MDMK members expressed unhappiness over its certain contents and demanded its withdrawal.
“… Government of India has no instrumentality under which it can force a sovereign government to take a particular action. This is not simply possible,” Mukherjee said.
In the Lok Sabha, the PMK and MDMK members, wearing black shirts, forced two adjournments by vociferously raising their demands and rushing to the Well of House.
They finally walked out of the House to register their dissatisfaction even though Mukherjee expressed readiness to make “corrections” in his statement if there were any “discrepancies”.
In Rajya Sabha, Tamil members, including AIADMK’s V Maitreyan and CPI’s D Raja, sought certain clarifications on Mukherjee’s statement and asked the government to come clean on whether weaponry are being supplied to Lankan military.
Mukherjee responded by asserting that India has never given military hardware to Sri Lankan government and that it is buying it from elsewhere. He said India believes that there can be no military solution to the ethnic problem of Sri Lanka and a political settlement has to be found to it.
“Military solution is no solution. You have to seek political solution and to achieve this, you have to sit on the negotiating table,” Mukherjee said, adding this message has been conveyed to Sri Lankan government at highest level several times.
Mukherjee said Sri Lankan government should keep in mind the safety and human rights of Tamil civilians during its fight against “terrorists”, obviously referring to LTTE. “Fight against terrorists is one thing, but human rights cannot be denied,” the External Affairs Minister said.
Denying that India has given military aid to Sri Lanka, he said whatever assistance has been given was only for developmental work. He also said India cannot use “coercive” measures against another sovereign country. On the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka, he said India has been in regular touch with the international community requesting it to “put pressure” on Colombo.
He stressed the need for shifting of Tamil civilians to safe zones and rehabilitation zones as soon as possible. The minister said that since the last 30 years, India has been telling Sri Lanka that political solution is a must for ending the crisis there. “Tamils in Sri Lanka have every right to live as free citizens and India has been working since last 30 years to see this achieved,” Mukherjee said.