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India to engage with Sri Lanka on resettlement of Tamils

December 04, 2009 15:53 IST

India said on Friday that it would work with Sri Lankan government to ensure resettlement of 3,00,000 people displaced in the northern region which has been freed from the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eeelam and was keen to see revival of the political process there.

"We continue to work with the Sri Lankan government to ensure the resettlement of all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said in a statement in the Rajya Sabha. In a suo motu statement on recent developments in northern Sri Lanka, he said it was crucial that nearly 3,00,000 IDPs were given immediate humanitarian attention and that urgent steps were taken to resettle them in their original places of habitation.

Krishna informed the House that after India conveyed its concern over the issue, Sri Lanka government had "agreed that bulk of the IDPs" would be resettled within 180 days. The minister said India is keen to see the revival of the political process in Sri Lanka that will meet the legitimate interests and aspirations of all communities including Tamils and Muslims, within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.

Revival of such a political process and an inclusive dialogue would help bring the minority communities into the political mainstream, he noted. "We have continued to emphasise to the Sri Lankan government to put forward a meaningful devolution package... We will remain engaged with them through this process of transition and reform," he said.

Krishna said the government attaches utmost importance to rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts being undertaken by Sri Lanka in the northern region. "India continues to do whatever it can to assist" Sri Lanka at this crucial turning point. He said conclusion of the military conflict in the northern territory of Sri Lanka presented it an opportunity to heal the wounds created by decades of protracted conflict. Sri Lanka should focus on issues of relief, resettlement, rehabilitation and reconciliation, he noted.

Resettlement of IDPs would ensure that a semblance of normalcy was restored to their lives after the traumatic experience they had undergone during the conflict. "We have consistently urged Sri Lanka to quicken the pace of rehabilitation and resettlement," he said.

The minister informed that more than 1,00,000 IDPs have been resettled subsequent to the visit of a delegation of MPs from Tamil Nadu in October. The delegation had visited Jaffna,  IDP camps in Vavuniya and other areas. uoting Sri Lankan government sources, Krishna said more han 1,50,000 IDPs have been resettled and around 1,45,000 still remain in camps. "We understand more have been resettled recently," he said. "We have been assured that by end of January 2010, all IDPs would be resettled," he said.

On relief measures, Krishna said India had sent 2.5 lakh family packs consisting of dry ration, clothing, utensils and footwear from Tamil Nadu to these IDPs since October 2008. He said the 60-member emergency 'field hospital' set up by India there treated more that 50,000 patients. The hospital was in operation between March and September this year. Indicating that government may allocate more fund for rehabilitation of the IDPs, he said, "We are committed to doing more." Government has already set aside Rs 500 crore for rehabilitation of the IDPs and welfare of the Tamil People in Sri Lanka, he added.

The minister also said India would send three more de-mining teams even as four such teams are already there, as per the recommendation of the parliamentary delegation. India would double the supply of shelter material from the current 2,600 tonnes and send consignments of cement for rebuilding the damaged houses, he said.

The government is also committed to help the island nation in reviving agriculture in its northern region. Cautioning that Indian fishermen should not venture deep into Sri Lankan waters, Krishna said there has been a sharp decline in number of boats seized and fishermen arrested after an "understanding" with the neighbouring country in October, 2008.

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