Indian minister calls for early Sri Lanka talks

By Bharatha Mallawarachi

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 7 2013 9:53 a.m. MDT

Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris, right, and his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid attend a joint press conference after their meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013.

Eranga Jayawardena, Associated Press

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — India has urged the government of neighboring Sri Lanka and a Tamil party to resume stalled negotiations aimed at a meaningful devolution of power to resolve a decades-old ethnic problem.

India's External Affairs Minister Salman Kurshid's comments on Monday came after the Tamil National Alliance party recently swept a provincial election, a result seen as backing calls for wider regional autonomy in areas ravaged by a civil war that ended in 2009.

He said India looked forward to an early resumption of the dialogue process "in order to address this issue in a timely manner."

India has a major interest in the dispute because southern India is home to 60 million Tamils, although New Delhi has been reluctant to become directly involved in Sri Lankan politics since a disastrous military intervention during the civil war left more than 1,000 Indian troops dead.

Kurshid said he hopes the Sri Lankan leadership that ended the war and held the elections will now "work for genuine reconciliation."

The talks stalled in 2011 when the government said it wanted a Parliamentary committee to discuss devolution rather than through talks with the TNA.

The Indian military intervention followed an agreement between India and Sri Lanka which led to an amendment to Sri Lanka's constitution and established provincial councils in an effort to end Tamil militancy.

The Sri Lankan government also promised to allow a greater degree of autonomy in Tamil-majority regions in north when three decades of civil war ended in May 2009 with the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels.

However, the government backtracked recently, saying it will take back the land and police powers given to the provincial councils. Indian leaders have expressed dismay at the move.

On Monday, Kurshid reiterated that India has been "consistent in calling for an early political settlement and national reconciliation through meaningful devolution of powers..."

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