Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday raised the issue of devolution of power in Sri Lanka with visiting President Mahinda Rajapaksa in order to allow the Tamil population "to look forward to a future where they can live with dignity and respect". The meeting saw Rajapaksa and Singh having their first detailed discussion on all substantive issues since June, 2010.
Official sources said that Rajapaksa noted during the discussion over the Tamil issue that provincial elections were held in three provinces and that administrative and other steps are underway so as to hold polls in Northern Province too next year. Talks between the Lankan government and Tamil National Alliance have remained suspended since January, with Rajapaksa insisting that Tamil parties join a Parliament Select Committee to take the dialogue process forward.
Rajapaksa was initially scheduled to come to India only on a private visit at the invitation of the Madhya Pradesh government for laying the foundation stone of a Buddhist university at Sanchi. The two sides later agreed that it could be utilized to arrange an official meeting between Rajapaksa and Singh. While Rajapaksa has publicly voiced his displeasure with India's decision to vote in favour of a US sponsored UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa assured Singh that his government was not going to be bogged down by the past in carrying the relationship forward.
"Singh also emphasized on the need to treat fishermen humanely in cases where they may stray across maritime boundary. Both agreed that it would be best for fishermen associations to meet and discuss these issues further," said a government source.
He added that both the leaders also took note of the momentum of economic ties and assessed the growth of commercial relations positively. Rajapaksa also thanked Singh for allowing the sacred Kapilavastu relics to travel to Lanka. He said that more than three million Lankans were able to pay their respects and that it signified the strong cultural ties between the two nations. Before his meeting with Singh, Rajapaksa also called on President Pranab Mukherjee. (Times of India)