Chennai: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday rubbished the talk of sending the Army to Sri Lanka and favoured a political solution to the problem of Tamils within a united and federal set-up, brushing aside the views of parties in Tamil Nadu, including ally DMK, pitching for a separate Eelam.
“What is possible and what is not possible, I think it is a matter of speculation. But quite frankly we are dealing with a sovereign state Sri Lanka … a sovereign country. It is not so easy to march armies to a sovereign state,” he told a press conference in Chennai.
He was replying to a question on AIADMK chief’s Jayalalithaa’s remarks that if a government of her choice comes to power after the elections, it would send army to Sri Lanka for creation of a separate Tamil Eelam state.
With AIADMK and its allies PMK and MDMK raising the stakes on the Eelam issue, Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi also joined the bandwagon for a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka.
“There is such thing as international law and all those constraints I think are known to all those who are making tall promises,” he said in an apparent reference to Jayalalithaa’s recent election speeches.
The prime minister appeared to suggest that any action by India should not also make Sri Lanka go for other options.
Singh told the southern neighbour that there could be no military solution but only a negotiated political settlement which is fair to Tamils.
“We are living in very uncertain times. Whatever we do vis-a-vis our neighbours, we have to recognize that they are sovereign countries.
“In dealing with sovereign countries who have options other than dealing with India, sometimes we can hurt the wider national interests by taking a narrow shortsighted view,” the Prime Minister said when asked why India can’t snap ties with Sri Lanka.
Singh took strong objection to a question that he was maintaining silence on the Sri Lanka Tamils issue and said it was not true.
“That’s not true. I am deeply concerned over plight of the civilians in Sri Lanka. I have used every opportunity to take up the issue with the President and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka,” he said.
“This is not an issue which is of concern only for the people of Tamil Nadu, but for the people of India,” the Prime Minister said.
Asked about different opinions by political parties on LTTE, he said: ”As far as the government of India is concerned, LTTE has been regarded as a terrorist organisation so far.”
On India’s stand about Prabhakaran and whether New Delhi will help Sri Lankan government in nabbing the LTTE chief, the Prime Minister said: “Prabhakaran is a proclaimed offender and he is wanted in India. Now the issue is not this.
“The issue is the future of Tamils in Sri Lanka... on how the Sri Lankan government settle the issues through political means so that Tamils in the country can live with dignity and self-respect.
“The immediate concern is that the people trapped should be brought to the safe zone and the Sri Lankan government should resolve it through a political settlement,” Manmohan Singh said.