Colombo, Jan 16: Setting the tone for his talks with top Sri Lankan leadership tomorrow, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today said India was committed to ensuring political settlement, including devolution of powers, to resolve the decades-old Tamil question.
Krishna, who arrived here on a four-day visit, kicked off his engagements by attending a traditional reception hosted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the occasion of ‘Thaipongal' celebrated by Tamils here and across the globe.
He also received a delegation from the Tamil National Alliance, an umbrella group of Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka.
During his meeting with the delegation led by TNA's senior leader R Sampanthan, Krishna told them that India is “firmly committed” to ensuring political settlement that includes devolution of powers to Tamil-dominated northern region to address the aspirations of the people of the community.
Sources said Krishna also assured the delegation that he will raise the issue during his talks with the top Sri Lankan leadership tomorrow.
Krishna will meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister D M Jayaratne and his counterpart G L Peiris, who broke the protocol and received him personally at the airport on his arrival.
Later, the Minister also met a delegation from the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress which apprised him of the political situation in the country.
During the talks tomorrow, Krishna is expected to press for an early political solution to the Tamil problem and review the developmental projects being implemented by India with regard to relief and rehabilitation of the Tamils displaced due to the three-decade war that ended in 2009 with the death of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Giving his version about the meeting with Krishna, Sampanthan said they told the Minister about the “lethargic” attitude being adopted by the Sri Lankan Government in talks for evolving a political solution to the ethnic crisis and sought India's help for “corrective steps” in this regard.
During the 45-minute meeting, the TNA leaders told Krishna that India should play an “active role” in taking the process forward to arrive at a political solution to the decades-old ethnic problem.
“The talks with the Indian Foreign Minister were cordial. We briefed him about the talks we have been holding with the Sri Lankan Government.
“We can't say that any progress has been made in the past one year and this is because of the lethargic attitude being adopted by the government here,” Sampanthan said after the meeting.
During its talks with the Lankan government, the TNA, which has emerged as the main political force representing the Tamils especially after the 2010 Parliamentary polls, has been demanding that police and land powers be vested with the provincial government as envisaged by the 13th Amendment.
Meanwhile, Krishna will also raise the issue of alleged attacks against Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.
Krishna and Peiris are expected to review the progress made at the Joint Working Group on Fisheries on Saturday to put in place an arrangement to avert incidents of attacks against Indian fishermen.
The sources said India would emphasis on the humane elements and both sides would discuss ways to ease the human difficulties regarding the issue.
Besides the dialogue with the top leadership, Krishna would travel to Kilinochchi, once a stronghold of the now defunct LTTE, and hand over nearly 100 houses constructed by India for displaced Tamils as part of a pilot project.
He will also become the first political leader from India to visit the Indian Peace Keeping Force memorial just outside the capital.
Earlier, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said India would convey its stand that the problem should be resolved through a political solution by implementation of 13th Amendment and beyond.
“Our stand has been that on these issues one has to take all segments of the society together. That is the best way and everyone should be taken on board,” he said.
Since the visit comes in the backdrop of the release of the report Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), set up by the Lankan government after the war, India would use the opportunity to learn from the top leadership how they to proceed further on the recommendations.
Akbaruddin said India would use the visit to review the development process with regard to relief and rehabilitation of the displaced Tamils and how to carry forward the projects in the future.
Akbaruddin said Krishna and Peiris would sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for construction of 49,000 houses in the island's north as part of the rebuilding process at a cost of USD 250 million.
Three more agreements in the fields of agriculture, telecommunications and railways are expected to be signed tomorrow.
“This is the biggest project being undertaken by India outside the country. The first lot of houses constructed under the pilot project will be handed over to beneficiaries,” the spokesman said.
The sources also said Krishna would distribute 10,000 bicycles to resettled Tamils in and around Kilinochchi since it is a “simple medium of transport” for a resetlled person. The beneficiaries include women and students too, they said.
Krishna would also travel to Galle in southern Lanka on Thursday to inaugurate the of Galle-Induruwa segment of the Southern Railway Project.