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Sri Lanka seeks greater Indian role in peace bid
December 21, 2005 20:15 IST
Ahead of his three-day India visit, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Wednesday said he will seek greater involvement of New Delhi in the island's faltering peace bid with the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam when he holds talks with the leadership there.
Rajapakse, who leaves for New Delhi on December 27 in his first trip abroad since winning the November 17 Presidential elections, said he expected India to play a "bigger role" in supporting the island's peace efforts to end three decades of ethnic bloodshed.
"That is what I want to discuss with them. They are our closest neighbour and it is very important for me to have them involved in the process," he told Colombo-based Indian journalists when asked about what sort of role he wanted India to play.
Rajapakse said he expected India to have an involvement similar to what the quartet known as co-chairs - US, European Union, Japan and Norway - has in supporting peace efforts.
The quartet has led international efforts to raise money in support of the island's peace efforts.
During his India visit, the Sri Lankan President will be accompanied by a bipartisan delegation of legislators from the government as well as opposition in a sign of broad support he enjoys within the legislature despite ideological differences.
He is expected to stop over in Chennai on his way back.
About a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and a Defence Cooperation pact, the President said there would be no finality on either, but he expected talks to continue.
Rajapakse said he was keen to study India's system of devolution, as it could be a model for Sri Lanka to grant extensive devolution without altering the character of the state.
"I am for a unitary state with maximum possible devolution." he said, adding, "I want to study the Indian model and I am sure we can learn from that."
Also, Rajapakse said he was keen to discuss oil exploration with Indian companies.
He has sought a report from the treasury over a controversy over subsidy payments to the Indian Oil Corporation's unit in Sri Lanka.
Trading in the shares of IOC's Lanka unit was suspended on Tuesday amid reports that the company was in trouble, as the Sri Lankan government owed it some $71 million (about Rs 32,000 crore).
"I have asked for a report, but what I can tell you is that we will honour our commitments," the President said, adding, "If we have to pay, we will pay. That would not be a problem."