India will not be pressing Sri Lanka to merge the Northern and Eastern Provinces to form a single Tamil-majority, as envisaged by the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar has told the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on Monday.
According to the Indian Express, the Foreign Secretary was reacting to a demand made by the leader of the Eelam Peoples’ Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) Suresh Premachandran, that India should honor its promise to keep the North and East united.
It had even said that it would not allow a referendum to be held on the issue.
Jaishankar has told Premachandran that much water has flown down the bridge since 1987 and as the situation has changed it will be better for all concerned to make use of the various windows of opportunity which have opened up recently with the change of regime and secure the rights of the Tamils.
He argued that it would not be wise to hold every other matter hostage to one issue - the merger of the North and East.
However, he added that India would not mind if the Tamils kept the issue alive and kept it on the table for talks with the Sri Lankan government.
Premachandran had highlighted the issue of the merger of the North and East partly because it had been the main theme of the Ezhuga Tamil rally held recently in the Eastern town of Batticaloa.
He pointed out that India has a moral responsibility to ask the Sri Lankan government to re-merge the North and East as it is part of the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987. If the Accord is still valid, every part of it should be deemed to be equally valid and implemented, he argued.
He recalled that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had solemnly promised that the merger would remain and that the proposed referendum would not be held.
He also recalled that the EPRLF had fully cooperated with India on the implementation of the Accord, and like the Indian Peace Keeping Force, had lost many men in the fight against the LTTE which opposed the Accord.
India has a moral responsibility to keep its promise and persuade the Sri Lankan government to re-merge the North and East, Premachandran has said.