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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 104

Bogollagama suggests a new variant of joint patrolling of Palk Straits

New Delhi, 21 March ( Sri Lanka's foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama rounded his two-day India visit Tuesday night with a meeting with the defence minister AK Antony. Accompanied by his foreign secretary, he held discussions with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee. He also met former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, the main opposition leader in Parliament.

The main talking point at all these meetings was safety of Indian fishermen in the Palk Straits, which is a sensitive issue in Tamil Nadu. Chief Minister Karunanidhi has publicly voiced his disquiet at the recent incidents of gunmen targeting Indian fishermen. There were reports that the Lankan Navy fired at the Indian fishing boats but Colombo maintains that the firing was the handiwork of Tamil Tigers, who have become once again along the Tamil Nadu coast.

Bogollagama reportedly suggested what he called coordinated patrolling of the sea dividing India and Sri Lanka. He did not elaborate on the concept but it is said to be no more than joint patrolling which was proposed by President Rajapaksa when he was here in Delhi last year.

Colombo will welcome if Indian personnel board its patrol craft. And that by itself will be a deterrent to terrorists.

It is unclear at this stage whether Delhi will be ready to go along with Colombo's proposal. The UPA government will have to factor in the sentiment in Chennai.

The Tamilnadu political parties are exercised over reports about fresh military campaign by Sri Lankan army and navy in the Tigers' controlled areas and the consequent displacement of hundreds of families. Rameswaram is receiving fresh refugees almost every day.

The visiting foreign minister projected his proposal as must in the on-going world wide campaign against terrorism. Implicit is the message that LTTE is a terrorist organisation and it deserves no laxity from a country which had lost itself visionary leader to the Tiger's assassins' bullet. Colombo hopes to convince Delhi on another factor – the threat posed by Sea Tigers not only to unarmed fishermen but to the sea lanes.

Bogollagama talks covered devolution question. He was told of the Indian concerns over the delay in meeting the political aspirations of the Tamils. Also over the problems faced by displaced persons. The Lanka Minister reiterated his government's commitment to quickly come up with a political package to end the ethnic issue.

Another engagement for the Lanka foreign minister was a breakfast meeting with 14 Delhi based European Union ambassadors accredited to Colombo. He impressed upon them to block the funds and donations flow to the Tigers from the EU member nations since 'the money is used to buy arms'

LTTE Threat

The visit of the Sri Lankan minister has taken place against thebackdrop of heightened concerns over security along the Tamilandu coast. Police raids across the state particularly in areas near Madurai have unearthed evidence that Tigers have once again activated their net work and are sending explosives to their Vanni area.

There are strict orders from Delhi for the federal agencies and the state agencies to coordinate their campaign against the Tigers and to step up vigil in the state and along the coast.

- Asian Tribune -

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