Fulfilling expectations of Tamil community in Sri Lanka's own interest: EAM Jaishankar

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New Delhi, Feb 4 (PTI) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said fulfilling the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice and peace within a united Sri Lanka will be in own interest of the island nation.

In response to a question in Rajya Sabha, Jaishankar said he reiterated India's support for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka during his discussions with its top leaders in Colombo last month.

'It is in Sri Lanka's own interest that the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity within a united Sri Lanka are fulfilled,' he said. 'That applies equally to the commitments made by the Sri Lankan government on meaningful devolution, including the 13th Amendment to the Constitution,' the minister said.

The 13th amendment provides for devolution of power to the Tamil community. India has been pressing Sri Lanka to implement the 13th amendment which was brought in after the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1987.

Jaishankar held discussions with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena during his visit to Colombo from January 5-7.

'During my discussions, I reiterated that India's support for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is longstanding, as indeed for an inclusive political outlook that encourages ethnic harmony,' he said in his written response.

The external affairs minister said India has consistently called upon Sri Lanka during bilateral discussions at all levels to fulfill its commitments on addressing the issues related to protecting the interest of Tamils in that country.

'India continues to remain engaged with Sri Lanka at all levels in its efforts to build a future that accommodates the aspirations of all sections of society, including the Sri Lankan Tamil community, for a life of equality, justice, peace and dignity within a united Sri Lanka,' he added.

The issue had figured during a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa in September last.

To a separate question, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said 74 Indian fishermen were arrested and 11 boats were confiscated by the Sri Lankan authorities last year.

'With sustained diplomatic efforts the government has secured the release of all these fishermen. At present, 12 Indian fishermen, arrested along with two boats in January are in Sri Lankan custody,' he said.

The minister said the fishermen have been provided consular and legal assistance by the Indian High Commission in Colombo and Consulate in Jaffna.

'Efforts are ongoing to secure the release of these fishermen. Presently, 62 boats of Indian fishermen are in Sri Lankan custody,' he said. PTI MPB RHL