Don’t dilute autonomy, India tells Sri Lanka

New Delhi, May 17 (IANS) India has told Sri Lanka not to dilute the autonomous powers granted to its Tamil-majority northern province ahead of provincial elections, official sources said Friday.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid also sought the early release of 31 Indian fishermen detained in Sri Lanka.

Khurshid made the observations during a telephonic discussion with his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris.

According to the sources, the Indian minister demanded freedom for the 26 Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan prisons.

He made a special reference to the five other fishermen in detention in Sri Lanka since November 2012.

Peiris suggested a meeting of the two fishermen associations to try and resolve issues that have led to repeated violence in the narrow sea which divides the two countries.

Khurshid expressed concerns over media reports that land and police powers may be taken away from the provinces.

He urged Colombo not to take any step in the light of its own commitments to the India-sponsored 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution devolving more powers to the provinces.

Sri Lanka has made it clear in recent times that it will not accept external interference in its internal affairs, in what is widely seen as an implicit attack on India.

Khurshid also referred to reports that the Sri Lankan Army was acquiring private land in the northern province to set up high security zones.

The minister emphasised that “such a move would not be helpful”, the sources said.

Sri Lanka has faced widespread international pressure since it crushed the Tamil Tigers in 2009.

Most criticism, primarily from the West and human rights bodies, relate to excesses blamed on security forces. India has been more concerned about Colombo’s U-turn on issues related to autonomy to Sri Lankan provinces.

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