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Tamils in Sri Lanka must enjoy 'equality, dignity, justice and self-respect' says India

Photograph Colombo Page

Tamils in Sri Lanka must enjoy "equality, dignity, justice and self-respect" India's external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on Friday in New Delhi.

"She [Sushma Swaraj] stressed the need for a political solution that addresses substantially, the aspirations of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka for equality, dignity, justice and self-respect within a framework of a united Sri Lanka," the ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said during a weekly press briefing on Friday.

The six member TNA delegation included leader R. Sampanthan and TNA MPs Mavai Senathirajah, M.A. Sumanthiran, Suresh Premachandran, Ponnambalam Selvarajah and Selvan Adaikalanathan.

"This is the first delegation of the TNA to visit India after the new government of India has taken office. Obviously this is part of our effort to engage with all - the government of Sri Lanka as well as all political parties in Sri Lanka, with the ongoing process of reconciliation," India's external affairs ministry spokesperson said.

"The TNA delegation made a presentation to the external affairs minister in a fairly detailed manner about what they perceive as the current situation in Sri Lanka in terms of the political environment and their engagement or otherwise with the Sri Lankan government," he added, stating that the delegation is due to meeting Prime Minister Modi on Saturday where "they intend to put forward a detailed projection of their understanding of the situation as well as suggestions that they may have in this context about Indian engagement on this issue."

The spokesperson also said there "was a discussion about the Indian developmental projects in the region, including in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. This included the housing project, as well as hospitals and various other projects, including reference to the Sampur thermal projection also."

See full press conference here. (Questions relating to TNA and Sri Lanka at 11:16, 18:13, 23:20)

Asked by a reporter to clarify what a "substantial solution" meant, the spokesperson said: "the 13th Amendment was stemming from the India-Sri Lanka Accord, and that is something that the Sri Lankans themselves have adopted as their legislative framework and that's the framework in which we are working."

Speaking after the meeting with Swaraj, Sampanthan said the TNA delegation had stressed to the minister the importance of India's role in resolving the ethnic conflict on the island.

"They [people who live in Sri Lanka] have their roots in India. Their culture is Indian and everything is Indian. So, I think India is one country that can play a major role," Sampanthan said after the meeting.

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