Sri Lanka Ceasefire sign now

H.E. Shri Pranab Mukherjee
Union Minister for External Affairs
South Block, New Delhi
Tel: +91-11-2301 1127/1165/1463
Fax: +91-11- 2301 3254

Ref: India must urge ceasefire agreement at the SAARC Foreign Ministerial meeting to be held in Colombo on 27th and 28th February, 2009.

Your Excellency, Shri Mukherjee,

When you represent India at the SAARC Foreign Ministers Meeting to be held at Colombo later this week, we urge you to use the opportunity in calling for an immediate ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. The civil war in Sri Lanka has its origins in complex socio-economic issues, but has now shamefully devolved into a one-dimensional ethnic conflict. While people of all ethnic and social groups have suffered greatly, the Tamil population is, currently, in the most vulnerable position. The Sri Lankan government has launched what can only be described as the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Tamil minority population. Under these circumstances, Indias presence at the SAARC meeting must not carry even the remotest suggestion of business as usual with the Colombo regime.

Indias strident anti-terrorism / anti-LTTE stance cannot possibly justify its failure, or refusal, to intervene and to halt this bloodbath. What is happening in the northern and the eastern parts of the island is, quite simply, a form of collective punishment being inflicted on the entire Tamil civilian population.

Recently, Union Minister of State, H.E. Shri Anand Sharma, declared at a press conference that India could only counsel, and not intervene, in the affairs of another country. In principle, this is true, but in fact, we have now reached a critical point which mandates Indian leadership. The civil war in Sri Lanka concerns India at all levels.

At the global level, this is a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions, and India, as the worlds largest democracy, cannot remain passive. Each moments delay in calling for a ceasefire translates into more avoidable deaths. The aggressive military action of the Sri Lankan government risks permanently alienating the Tamil minority, thereby rekindling separatist aspirations and crushing hopes for a future federal structure. For the sake of future peace and reconciliation within a united and stable Sri Lanka, India must assert leadership now.

At the regional level, India has always remained a part of the equation for historical and geo-political reasons. At this moment, it is well within Indias capability to use its diplomatic leverage in compelling Colombo to agree to an immediate ceasefire. If India cannot help resolve a conflict in the Indian Ocean region in its own neighbourhood - it cannot present a credible case for global power status, or for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

At the national level, there are two compelling reasons for urgent action by India; namely the public outrage in Tamilnadu, and the political future of Sri Lankan refugees in India. Even nominally apolitical segments of the Tamilnadu population have been angered by the deaths, displacements and mayhem unleashed on Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka. The Union government can no longer ignore this sensitive situation, and must act to rectify the publics perception that New Delhi is condoning the chauvinistic policies of the Rajapakshe regime. Further, the political future of over 80,000 refugees living in Tamilnadu, hangs in the balance. How the conflict ends will determine how well they can re-integrate into post-conflict Sri Lankan society. If there is a negotiated settlement led by India, the refugees have a higher chance of returning home in safety and dignity.

In conclusion, we urge the Indian government to act in a courageous and principled manner by calling for an immediate ceasefire, and by ensuring that international protection is accorded to Tamil civilians who are stranded or caught in the crossfire. India must urge Colombo to work closely with the UN, and to facilitate the return of international humanitarian workers and media to the conflict zone. Finally, India must help carry forward a process that advocates a permanent and honourable political settlement to the current conflict, rather than wait for the military annihilation of one side by another.

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Irene KleinBy:
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Petition target:
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