Manmohan, Rajapaksa to meet in Maldives, Tamil issue on agenda

Manish Chand

Addu Atoll/New Delhi, Nov 9 (IANS) India has taken note of some progress in resettling displaced Tamils and in Colombo's dialogue for reconciliation, key subjects that will be discussed between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the Maldives Thursday.

Manmohan Singh will meet Rajapaksa at Hotel Shangri La in the idyllic Addu Atoll Thursday afternoon soon after talks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

The two leaders will discuss a host of bilateral issues and enhanced cooperation within the framework of the SAARC.

'There is progress in resettlement and the economic relationship is moving forward,' official sources said in New Delhi before Manmohan Singh headed for the Maldives to participate in the 17th SAARC summit.

'We will do all we can to push forward the peace process,' they said. India has been urging Sri Lanka to take concrete steps for 'genuine national reconciliation' and a lasting political settlement in Sri Lanka.

Colombo has responded positively and has taken some steps to initiate a dialogue with the moderate Tamil leadership in the country. The sources also took positive note of the dialogue process the Sri Lankan government has initiated with the Tamil National Alliance, which swept the recent local body polls in the Tamil-dominated Northern Province.

Since the end of the armed conflict with the LTTE in 2009, India has impressed upon Sri Lanka to capitalize on this 'historic opportunity' for build permanent peace and create a harmonious society in which all communities co-exist with equal rights.

Manmohan Singh pledged a grant of Rs 500 crores (around $110 million) for relief, rehabilitation and resettlement work in Sri Lanka.

The two leaders will also discuss progress in key areas like India's pilot project of building 1,000 houses for Tamil refugees in Sri Lanka that is nearing completion. This is part of the 50,000 houses pledged by India during Rajapaksa's landmark visit to India in June 2010. These houses will help the refugees in the Northern and Eastern provinces and estate workers in Central and Uva provinces start a new life.