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Menon welcome

Sri Lanka should receive India's Foreign Secretary and suave diplomat Shiv Shankar Menon, who is scheduled to arrive here today, with open arms. India could not have sent a better person at a better time!

Speculation is rife as to what kind of message Mr. Menon, former high commissioner to Sri Lanka, may be carrying at a time Sri Lanka's war on terror has reached its final stage and the LTTE backers in Tamil Nadu are all out to take Prabhakaran and his men trapped in Mullaitivu off the hook by derailing the war effort. His visit has given some hope to the sinking Tigers and their supporters that he will be here to force a ceasefire on Sri Lanka. But, it is rather doubtful that India, reeling from the dastardly Mumbai terror strikes and demanding that Pakistan take tough action against border-hopping terrorists, will resort to anything that will give a new lease of life to Sir Lanka's terrorists.

We believe India, having learnt from its mistake of creating and nurturing terrorism against Sri Lanka as evident from its loss of about 1,400 IPKF troops and Rajiv Gandhi at the hands of the LTTE, no longer toys with the idea of throwing a lifeline to the Tigers in spite of pressure from Tamil Nadu.

Instead of worrying about Mr. Menon's message, Sri Lanka ought to make use of the opportunity to send her message across to India as well as the rest of the world. We should appreciate India's concern for the Vanni civilians going through hell in the theatre of war. Karunanidhi et al, we reckon, are also genuinely desirous of helping those hapless people. But the fact remains that no one else could be more concerned about Sri Lankan citizens than Sri Lanka itself. It is for the benefit of people that terrorism is being battled. If someone says the on-going war on terror has to stop, he or she has either gone soft in the head or is supportive of terrorism to the hilt. For, people have suffered long enough because of the LTTE. Prabhakaran has perpetrated crimes of all sorts-massacres, assassinations, extortion, forcible child conscription, ethnic cleansing etc- against Sri Lankans, irrespective of their ethnicity or religion. Tamils have suffered under his jackboot more than any other community.

So, any opposition to the war that is aimed at removing the scourge of the LTTE terror amounts to an attempt to save the LTTE and perpetuate people's suffering. For, the LTTE is not ready to give up terrorism or accept a political solution. Not even the mighty India could ram a political settlement down the LTTE's throat. The EU Parliament has rightly pointed out in its resolution dated Sep. 08, 2006 that the LTTE has rejected devolution at the provincial level (Provincial Councils–offered by India), devolution at the regional level (Regional Councils–offered by President Chandrika Kumaratunga) and devolution at the national level (federalism–as envisaged in the Oslo Declaration which had the blessings of the Co-Chairs, to wit, the US, Norway, the EU and Japan). Is any more proof necessary that the LTTE won't settle for anything less than a separate state which neither Sri Lanka nor India nor the democratic world can afford.

In other words, no political settlement is possible unless and until the LTTE is removed from the equation. It is not for nothing that the US government recently declared that it did not advocate talks with the LTTE, which is proscribed in the US as a foreign terrorist group. We presume India's policy is also the same. No one can either claim the LTTE is amenable to a political solution or advocate talks with the outfit without first obtaining an assurance from Prabhakaran himself that he will give up Eelam.

Sri Lanka should solicit India's help through Mr. Menon to create conditions conducive to evolving a political solution and to secure the release of the civilians in the clutches of the LTTE. India should be requested to get Karunanidhi and others, apparently grieved by the civilian plight in the Vanni, to pressure their darling (Prabhakaran) to let go of the people he is using as a human shield, give up arms and declare that he is prepared to forego Eelam for a devolution package.

Let them be told that if they cannot use their influence on the LTTE to satisfy those conditions, they have no right to either speak of a ceasefire or challenge Sri Lanka's right to battle terrorism.

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