Colombo, Jan 17 (IANS) India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Tuesday held a breakfast meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the second day of his four-day visit to the island nation.
Two hours later, Krishna called on Sri Lankan Prime Minister D.M. Jayarathna in the latter’s office in this scenic capital and discussed a range of issues.
He discussed a host of bilateral issues, including national reconciliation efforts between the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Sri Lankan government for an early political solution for the vexed ethnic minorities issue after the three decade-old armed conflict in the northern and eastern provinces.
“The breakfast meeting, which lasted nearly an hour, started on a cordial note and in the spirit of friendship the two neighbouring countries enjoy over the decades. Bilateral and specific issues were discussed,” an Indian High Commission official said.
Both the leaders also reviewed the progress made in negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the TNA in the context of the 13th amendment to the Constitution for devolution of powers to the Tamil-speaking minorities.
As there was no official briefing on the meeting yet, Krishna is learnt to have impressed upon the president for an early and lasting solution to the ethnic issue so as to enable the 300,000 Tamil civilians housed in camps for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) resume normal life and develop the region.
“The president appreciated India’s rehab programmes such as building about 50,000 houses for the IDPs in the northern, central and eastern provinces, with a $250-million line of credit, providing healthcare facilities and re-constructing schools that were damaged in the ethnic strife,” the official said.
The meetings with the president and the prime minister preceded Krishna’s discussions scheduled for late Tuesday with the TNA leadership and representatives of the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress (SLMC).
He will hold official level talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart G.M. Peiris and sign four agreements for cooperation in agriculture, railway projects, housing and co-development of the war-ravaged northern region.
Krishna will also visit the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) memorial at Palawatta, about 70 km from Colombo, built in memory of the 1,155 soldiers of the Indian Army who died fighting in the civil war between the Sri Lankan military and Tamil nationalists such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during 1987-1990.
(Fakir Balaji can be contacted at [email protected])