Indian Foreign Minister refuses to criticise Colombo for abrogating CFA

[TamilNet, Sunday, 13 January 2008, 17:29 GMT]
Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in an interview to CNN-IBN news channel, Sunday admitted that India had "scrupulously avoided" being a party to peace negotiations in Sri Lanka. The Indian FM who last week had ruled out any military solution to the ethnic strife in the war-torn island, on Sunday, failed to criticize Sri Lanka for abrogating the ceasefire. Questioned whether Colombo's decision to abrogate the ceasefire agreement was a "mistake," the minister replied that "any country that takes action against terrorists is free to do so within their legal system."

Pranab Mukherjee
Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee
He refused to criticize Sri Lanka for abrogating the ceasefire accord because India was not a party to it. "We were never a party to it; attempts were made to drag us to be a party, but we scrupulously avoided it for obvious reasons; because we had to pay a high price," he said.

In his interview to Karan Thapar on Devil's Advocate, telecast on the CNN-IBN news channel Sunday night, he further confirmed that "no decision has yet been taken" on the Indian Prime Minister's participation in the SL Independence Day celebrations scheduled for February 4.

Last week, he had ruled out any military solution to the ethnic strife in the war-torn island and said that India was encouraging the GoSL to find a solution through "dialogue and implementation of a devolution formula."

Following are excerpts from his interview:

Karan Thapar: Last week the Sri Lankan government announced that with effect from January 15 it intends to abrogate the ceasefire agreement with the LTTE. In your eyes is this a mistake or this, given the spate of LTTE attacks in recent months, is both understandable and perhaps also inevitable?

Pranab Mukherjee: We shall have to see what impact it has. Of late clashes between Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE terrorists have increased. So far as terrorism is concerned India's position is quite clear: zero tolerance. Therefore, any country that takes action against terrorists is free to do so within their legal system.

Karan Thapar: But you are not criticising Sri Lanka for abrogating the ceasefire accord?

Pranab Mukherjee: Because we are not party to it, please remember that. We were never a party to it; attempts were made to drag us to be a party to it but we scrupulously avoided it for obvious reasons, because we had to pay a high price.

Karan Thapar: I understand so you have no comment to make on the abrogation either.

Pranab Mukherjee: What I have stated is that so far as the fight against terrorists is concerned, it is one issue. But so far the solution to the problems of ethnic minority, including the Tamilians, so that their legitimate aspirations are fulfilled within the system of Sri Lanka, that effort must not go lax and should continue to arrive at a solution.

Karan Thapar: It is well known that the Prime Minister has been invited to Sri Lanka to be the chief guest at their 60th anniversary celebrations, which are on February 4. Clearly this is a significant honour for the Prime Minister; the question is will he accept?

Pranab Mukherjee: It has not yet been decided.

Karan Thapar: But isn't it getting a bit rude and discourteous to Sri Lanka not to make up your mind, one way or the other?

Pranab Mukherjee: No, because we require time. As and when it is decided we will let you know, but no decision has been taken.

Karan Thapar: Are you hostage to Indian Tamil politics?

Pranab Mukherjee: No, that has nothing to do with it. Sri Lanka is going to host the SAARC summit this year, naturally we will be going there.

Karan Thapar: That is a commitment?

Pranab Mukherjee: Of course! That is a SAARC commitment, if it takes place. But if they don't hold this summit, then how would I go.

Karan Thapar: Then you are sure about the SAARC summit but you are not sure about February 4?

Pranab Mukherjee: Listen, if they hold the summit we would surely be going. But, so far to participate in their Independence Day, no decision has yet been taken.

External Links:
IBN: IBN Transcript
IBN Live: IBN Video: Devil's Advocate


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