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News


Onus now on LTTE: India

NEW DELHI: With Sri Lanka announcing a 48-hour pause in hostilities, India on Friday said the onus was now on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to allow the trapped civilians to move to the designated safe zones.

“Our concern is to prevent the humanitarian situation from getting worse. We are very happy there is a pause to allow civilians out. Whether the LTTE allows that, we don’t know but it puts the onus on them,” authoritative sources said here. The civilians held hostage were enduring an “animal level survival” and India’s priority was to get them quickly into a “normal situation.”

The understanding here is that about 1.5 lakh civilians are caught in the conflict and the figure of four lakh is “physically impossible.”

With about 5,000 civilians having managed to get out of the conflict zone, the focus now is on separating innocent civilians from the LTTE fighters.
“Otherwise, with fighting in its closing stages, civilians are likely to be killed.

“One side might say they were being used as human shields; the other would claim they were killed by artillery barrages,” sources said.

In this respect, the sources referred to Thursday night’s statement by Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon. He welcomed Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s “important announcement” about the pause in hostilities, and hoped that with the implementation of these steps, the condition of the civilians would improve.

Menon suggested the “safe zone” concept during his Colombo visit earlier this month and the number of zones were expanded after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit earlier this week.
The reading here is that the Sri Lanka Army is “steadily grinding forward” and is “absolutely confident” of wrapping up its operations in the next two to three weeks.

As for LTTE Chief V. Prabhakaran, Colombo believes that he is still in the area as his “legend won’t allow him to leave.” The talk in Colombo of Prabhakaran having left Sri Lanka “could be a ploy to get him to stick his neck out,” the sources said.

“This is a lot to ask after 23 years of war and with most Tamil political leaders killed. There are the questions of livelihood, economic reconstruction, ports, roads, railways… it is a huge job ahead. Then there is the issue of dealing with the young soldiers who are likely to be demobilised,” these sources revealed.

“The society is not large enough for them to pass unnoticed. We are seeing a phased change in Sri Lanka and this is an opportunity for its government to do something proper in devolution. India will be trying to work with the Sri Lankan Government in all these aspects.” (The Hindu)

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