New Delhi: Noting with grave concern the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, India Saturday asked Colombo to seize the opportunity provided by LTTE’s ceasefire offer to bring about a pause in hostilities and work for safe passage for trapped civilians.
External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said India is making arrangements to send an emergency medical unit and medicines to render assistance to internally-displaced persons in northern Sri Lanka.
“The government of India views with grave concern the humanitarian concern that is building up with every passing day in Sri Lanka,” Mukherjee said in a statement here.
Citing reports which suggest that over 70,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict zone in Sri Lanka, he said there is acute shortage of food, water and medicines and many innocent lives have been lost in the conflict zone.
“It is reported that the LTTE has offered a ceasefire. While this may fall short of a declaration of willingness to lay down arms, it is our view that the government of Sri Lanka should seize the opportunity presented by the offer to bring about a pause in the hostilities,” Mukherjee said.
“The government of India would, therefore, appeal to the government of Sri Lanka to immediately work out safe passage for trapped civilians to secure locations,” he said, adding this would require the cooperation of LTTE.
“I sincerely hope that the government of Sri Lanka and all others will respond to this sincere appeal that is made in the interest of all sections of the people of Sri Lanka,“ the external affairs minister said.
He said the pause in hostilities must be utilised to facilitate the movement of Tamil population out of the war-affected areas to secure locations.
At the secure locations, there should be proper rehabilitation and international aid organisations as also the International Red Cross should have free access and scope to provide medical and other forms of humanitarian aid to the displaced people, Mukherjee said.
These steps need to be further followed up by effecting a proper devolution of powers to the provinces, with assurances of equality and equal rights to all citizens, particularly Tamil people, within the constitutional framework of Sri Lanka maintaining its territorial integrity, he said.