'Tamil rights in Lanka not be linked with LTTE hostilities'

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New Delhi, Oct 22 (UNI) India today categorically told Sri Lanka that the rights and the welfare of the Tamil community there should not get enmeshed in the ongoing hostilities against LTTE.

''... There is no military solution to the ethnic conflict. What is required in Sri Lanka is a peacefully negotiated political settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka respecting the legitimate rights of the minorities, including the Tamil community,'' External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a suo motu statement on Sri Lanka in the Lok Sabha, which was tabled amid uproar by the RJD on the attack on ''outsiders'' in Mumbai.

''We encourage the government of Sri Lanka to continue to nurture the democratic process in the Eastern Province as well,'' he said.

Mr Mukherjee said India was concerned about the plight of the civilians caught in the hostilities and the growing number of internally displaced persons, and had conveyed to the Sri Lankan Government to safeguard their safety and ensure that food and essential commodities reach them unhindered.

''We have been assured that the safety and well-being of the Tamil community there would be taken care of.

''In this connection, Member of Parliament and Senior Adviser to the Sri Lankan President, Basil Rajapaksa, is due to visit India shortly,'' he said.

The Minister said India had also taken up with Sri Lankan the need to ensure the safety of its fishermen, and the two governments had agreed to work towards concluding practical arrangements to prevent such incidents.

''While it is important for our fishermen to respect the International Maritime Boundary Line, we have impressed on the Sri Lankan Navy to desist from firing on Indian fishermen,'' he said.

UNI YJ RL AS1602

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