calls on President Abdul Kalam
India's President Abdul Kalam this morning
received President Chandrika Kumaratunga at Rashtrapathi Bawan. A wide range
of issues came up for discussions during the hour long meeting. The Indian
President was keen to know the recent developments in the peace initiatives
between the Government and the LTTE.
President Kumaratunga said much has been achieved and that she believed the
process is moving forward despite several contentious issues. The three year
ceasefire the longest ever during the 20-year conflict has brought about an
overall sense of relaxation in the country she said. However she said while
the ceasefire is holding, there are violations by the LTTE, such as
incidents of child conscription and the serial of killings of Tamil
political party leaders or activists. She told the Indian President that the
LTTE has said they are committed to a negotiated settlement and that they
will not go back to war. For the first time the LTTE has said they are
willing to explore a federal solution in place of a separate state which
they kept demanding for 20 long years. The President said her Government has
been very flexible and is hopeful direct talks with the militants would
begin soon. Indo-Lanka Defence Pact.
President Kumaratunga said she and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar have
had extensive discussions with India's Ministers of External Affairs and
Defense and the Security Advisor J N Dixit and most of the issues have been
resolved and that it would be signed soon.
North East Development:
President Kalam listened with interest to the development efforts that are
now in place in the war ravaged North and East. President Kumaratunga
explained the coordinated work of the Ministry of Rehabilitation,
Reconstruction and Reconciliation which is under her purview. She said via
the North East Provincial Councils much is being done to bring back normalcy
to these areas. The priority areas are infrastructure development, social
welfare, education and power sector.
President Kalam then raised the contentious issue of Indian fishermen
frequently arrested by Sri Lankan authorities. Foreign Minister Lakshman
Kadirgamar assured President Kalam that this will be resolved in a 'humane
manner' and that issue is made complex because the security forces are
tasked with monitoring the sea movements of the Northern militants as well.
President Kumaratunga assured her Indian counterpart that the Foreign
Minister, the Chief Justice and the Attorney General will give this issue
priority to speed up the legal issues that delay the release of Indian
fishermen apprehended by Sri Lankan authorities. Tourism .
Ways and means of promoting tourism, particularly pilgrims to the sacred
Buddhist sites in the two countries were discussed. A Twin City concept for
Buddha Gaya and Anuradhapura are to be explored. The President said the
Minster of Buddha Sasana Rantansiri Wickremanayake would soon visit India to
work on the modalities to further this concept.
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Date: November 06, 2004