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India welcomes end to emergency; says effective steps for national reconciliation next

Aug 26, 2011 3:29:53 PM - www.ft.lk

New Delhi: India today welcomed Sri Lanka’s move to scrap the emergency rule that existed on and off for nearly three decades and expressed hope that the government would take effective steps leading to genuine national reconciliation in the country.
In a statement to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Indian parliament, India’s External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna said Friday, Sri Lanka is going through its internal processes to address the long standing ethnic issue of Tamil minority and the sooner Sri Lanka can come to a political arrangement that suits all communities, the better.

“In this context, our emphasis has been to persuade the Sri Lankan Government to move towards a new system of institutional reforms, including a devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment,” the Minister said.

Since the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka, India’s focus has been on the welfare and wellbeing of the Tamils of Sri Lanka and their rehabilitation and rebuilding have been of the highest and most immediate priority, the Minister stressed.
Recalling India’s financial assistance to Sri Lanka for various projects to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of Sri Lankan Tamils, including IDPs, and to assist in the development of Northern Sri Lanka, the Minister said the Indian government was also taking up projects in the North in the fields of education and health, for the repair of school buildings and supply of equipment to upgrade hospitals.
Referring to the United Nations Expert Panel report on Sri Lanka, Krishna said there are still questions on the Report, and the issue has not so far come up for discussion in the formal agenda of any of the relevant UN intergovernmental bodies.
He said the Indian government however, will continue to insist on the need for Sri Lanka to take urgent and expeditious steps towards genuine national reconciliation. Among the steps Krishna mentioned are early return of remaining Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their respective homes, investigations into allegation of human rights violations, restoration of normalcy in affected areas, reduction of high security zones, accountability for the list of missing persons and redress humanitarian concerns of affected families.
Referring to the issue of alleged harassment of Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka Navy, the Minister said all instances of arrest and harassment of Indian fishermen seem to have occurred in Sri Lankan waters, when they stray across the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
He said India has conveyed to the Sri Lanka Government that the use of force could not be justified under any circumstances and that all fishermen should be treated in a humane manner.
Krishna also said that there are 104 Sri Lankan fishermen in Indian custody while there are no Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan jails on charges of fishing related violations.