Devolution real way to address ethnic conflict: India to Sri Lanka

Indian Foreign Secretary Menon talks with senior US diplomats
(Lanka-e-News, March 12, 2009, 12.17 PM) India Today (12) said devolution of powers to Tamil-dominated areas in northern Sri Lanka is “really the way” to address the decades-old ethnic conflict in the island nation in a “credible fashion” without which the risk of alienation of the minorities will continue.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, who held talks with senior US diplomats and officials about the current conflict and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka, said both India and the US have similar approaches to address the issue.
Mr. Menon also said India and the US feel that civilians caught in the war should be safely moved to Government-controlled areas.

“We do feel that what is needed once these areas are cleared or are under the government control is to do two things – restore normal life, which means a programme of rehabilitation, and reconstruction – reconstructing the infrastructure and building up a normal economic life of the people,” Mr. Menon told reporters, wrapping up his four day visit to US.

But this also requires measures that are needed to bring in the kind of the political steps including devolution, which would enable the people to feel that they have the control of their own political future.

“That’s important, because that is really the way to address the effects of conflict in the area in northern Sri Lanka.

Unless that is done in a credible fashion, you run the risk actually of continuing with this sense of alienation and displacement of which the conflict has resulted in,” Mr. Menon said.
He said it was mentioned and discussed not only in terms of the humanitarian effect of the present conflict, but also the reconstruction and developmental efforts and political aspect of the problem. On all of these three, Mr. Menon said India and US have convergence if views.

“India and the US have made it clear that we think that civilians should be allowed to move peacefully from the area where there is conflict,” he said, adding that India has sent substantial amount of humanitarian relief material for the people living in the conflict zone.

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