New Delhi, Oct 14 : Visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Saturday said that his government was open to talk to the Tamil Tigers if they opted for "genuine negotiations".
In his speech at the leadership summit organised by a national daily here, Rajapakse said: "If those who carry arms against the state are willing to enter a process of genuine negotiations towards a peaceful and democratic solution, the government and the people (of Sri Lanka) will reciprocate."
"In this, it would not be out of place to look forward to understanding and assistance from our regional neighbours and friends, especially those with whom we share the strongest bonds throughout history," he said, in a clear reference to India.
At the same time, Rajapakse said that Colombo was meeting the "terrorist challenge" from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) "with increasing success today".
During his speech, Rajapakse emphasised that India should be an opportunity and not a threat to its neighbours.
Emphasising that his government was committed to fighting terrorism, Rajapakse said "we are equally committed to seeking a negotiated and sustainable solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka."
Rajapakse said the ethnic conflict in his country, which has claimed thousands of lives, "has been exploited by separatist forces" and also "pose a threat to India".
He said everyone in the region looked at India "for a future strong economic leadership" and urged New Delhi to help its neighbours "too to become economically stable".