Ensure equality and justice for Tamil minority: India to Sri Lanka

New Delhi: India has again called on Sri Lanka to give powers to the island nation’s Tamil minority, describing it as an important part of the process for ensuring equality and justice for the community.

External affairs minister S Jaishankar raised the matter with his Sri Lankan counterpart GL Peiris, who was on a three-day visit to India for consultations on bilateral relations. Peiris’ first visit to India in his current term followed several steps by New Delhi to help Colombo cope with a severe economic crisis.

“Recalling the positive impact of India’s developmental and rehabilitation support, [Jaishankar] emphasized that Sri Lanka’s interests are best served by ensuring equality, justice, peace and respect for the Tamil people within a united Sri Lanka. Devolution of power is an important aspect of this process,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

Jaishankar noted the priority given to Sri Lanka under India’s Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) and the “Neighbourhood First” policies and called for “expeditiously taking forward mutually beneficial projects”. He also pointed to the need to keep the “shared maritime domain safe from various contemporary threats”.

Among the projects referred to by Jaishankar were proposals to enhance air and sea connectivity to reinforce people-to-people linkages, economic and investment initiatives, additional steps to enhance Sri Lanka’s energy security and cooperation in combating Covid-19.

At their delegation-level talks on Monday, Jaishankar and Peiris discussed the gamut of bilateral relations and explored ways to strengthen the close and friendly ties. Jaishankar said India will “always stand with Sri Lanka during its times of need”, and Peiris “expressed gratitude for India’s recent assistance”.

Peiris also provided an update on steps taken by the Sri Lanka government on human rights and reconciliation.

“Both sides reiterated the longstanding consensus to handle fishermen issue through humanitarian approach and refrain from the use of violence in dealing with incidents along the IMBL (international maritime boundary line). They agreed that bilateral mechanisms should meet early, starting with the joint working group on fisheries,” the statement said.

Besides holding talks with Jaishankar, Peiris also met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and foreign secretary Harsh Shringla.

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