Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet in two or three days Sri Lankan Tamil MPs sympathetic to the Tamil Tigers, who arrived here Tuesday, as part of wider efforts aimed at resolving the ethnic conflict.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members flew into the capital from Chennai with the intention of presenting a memorandum to Manmohan Singh, who returned to India Monday night from Cuba.
The MPs are here on the invitation of the state-run Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA). They will be meeting National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan as well as Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran at the earliest.
They are likely to call on the prime minister most probably Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on his convenience.
With 22 MPs, the TNA is the largest Tamil bloc in the 225-seat Sri Lankan parliament. It supports the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which is outlawed in India. A likely meeting between the Indian prime minister and the TNA has created a stir in Sri Lanka.
Mavai Senathiraja, a member of the TNA delegation led by their leader R. Sambandan, told IANS before leaving Chennai Tuesday that they were yet to know when they will get an audience with Manmohan Singh.
The TNA has been seeking a meeting with Manmohan Singh for two years, arguing that the Indian leadership listens to all points of view from Sri Lanka barring that of the leading Tamil political party due to its pro-LTTE bias.
The understanding here is that there is nothing wrong in meeting the TNA as it is a political party whose MPs get to regularly interact with Indian diplomats in Colombo and also get invited to India’s national day functions in Sri Lanka.
But New Delhi is very clear that a meeting with the TNA should not be construed as an endorsement of its policies or as a likely change in India’s overall understanding of the Sri Lankan conflict.
India, officials say, desires a negotiated settlement to the dragging ethnic conflict in a manner whereby the aspirations of the Tamil minority are taken due care of.
It is also being emphasized that the Indian leadership will also be meeting Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree and members of the Jatiya Hela Urumiya (JHU), a Sri Lankan political party of Buddhist monks. Both Anandasangaree and JHU are bitterly anti-LTTE.
The objective is to have wider consultations with all sections of public and political opinion from Sri Lanka to reach a possible consensus that will help in a resolution of the conflict that has claimed over 65,000 lives since 1983.
Officials here are not aware what the TNA MPs plan to tell the prime minister but are clear on what will be told to them: New Delhi desires a negotiated end to the conflict that has dangerously escalated leaving hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands displaced in recent months.
The TNA MPs are expected to highlight the suffering caused to the Tamil community in the island’s northeast due to the fighting, particularly since the start of July.
The escalating trouble has also forced thousands of Tamils to flee to India.
As reported on Sep 6 that Manmohan Singh was most likely to meet the Tamil MPs Sep 8. The MPs were preparing to leave for New Delhi when they were told at the eleventh hour to stay put in Chennai.
Manmohan Singh subsequently left on a weeklong tour of Brazil and Cuba, where he attended the Non-Aligned Movement summit.
As one informed source told IANS: “There is nothing wrong in meeting the TNA MPs. They are representatives of a legitimate political party who interact with Sri Lankan leaders. We will want to know what they have to stay.”
Senathiraja had earlier told IANS that the TNA considered a meeting with Manmohan Singh “important” and that the MPs wanted quality time to “discuss all matters”.