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 Post subject: India has no problem with Sri Lankan military shopping
 Post Posted: Fri May 05, 2006 9:43 pm 
India has no problem with Sri Lankan military shopping

Copyright 2001-2005 newkerala.com

By M.R. Narayan Swamy, New Delhi: When Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera arrives here on his third visit in six months, he will learn that India has no objection to Colombo shopping for military hardware in any country.

New Delhi is aware that Colombo is shopping for military hardware in several countries even while remaining keen to sign a defence cooperation agreement with India. Unlike in the 1980s when India eyed with suspicion any military ties forged between Sri Lanka and some countries, New Delhi now feels that Colombo can go shopping for arms and ammunition anywhere, including China.

But the Indian military establishment has made it clear that any move by Sri Lanka to inject foreign military personnel or establish "listening posts" in any part of the island's northeast would be viewed with grave suspicion.

At the same time, India will not sell arms and ammunition of offensive nature to Sri Lanka. However, non-lethal military equipment and those deployed for defensive positions will be sold. The last major supply from India to Sri Lanka was an offshore vessel.

India will also continue exchanging visits by the two countries' military chiefs and training Sri Lankan military personnel. The defence pact will not be signed primarily due to domestic political considerations.

India shares international concerns over the rising levels of violence in Sri Lanka where killings and counter-killings have made a mockery of the Norway-brokered ceasefire between Colombo and the Tamil Tigers.

Samaraweera will give a detailed presentation of the situation in Sri Lanka to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who also holds the foreign ministry portfolio, and National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan.

Besides Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed, Samaraweea is also likely to meet a couple of Indian cabinet ministers during the May 7-9 visit.

International players are locked in desperate efforts to avert a possible resumption of war between Colombo and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Manmohan Singh last month telephoned President Mahinda Rajapakse suggesting restraint after Sinhalese mobs went on the rampage in the eastern town Trincomalee following a bomb blast blamed on the LTTE.

India would like to know in detail about the aerial bombing of areas near Trincomalee after an LTTE suicide bomb attack in Colombo April 25 almost killed Sri Lanka's army chief, Lt. Gen. Sanath Fonseka.

Samaraweera will discuss ways to revive the stalled peace talks with the LTTE. The first round took place in Geneva in February. The second was scheduled in April but was called off amid escalating violence.

He may also want to find out if India can play a more high profile role in the peace process.

New Delhi is, however, uncomfortable doing that because it does not want to interact with the LTTE, which was outlawed in India on charges of assassinating former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

Although India is not a member of the co-chairs to Sri Lanka's peace process (the US, the European Union, Norway and Japan), Colombo's view is that New Delhi is the only power that has a stake in the island's territorial integrity.

Sri Lanka is also keen that India should persuade the co-chairs to put pressure on the LTTE to return to the path of negotiations.

India seeks a negotiated solution to the dragging ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka but is clear that Colombo should evolve substantial devolution to the Tamils within a federal framework.

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