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Briefing: Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao with Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi at his residence in Chennai on Wednesday.
CHENNAI: A senior official of the Union government will visit conflict-ridden areas of Sri Lanka early next month to assess development needs of the areas, Nirupama Rao, Foreign Secretary, said on Wednesday.
Emerging from a 45-minute-long meeting with Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi at his Gopalapuram residence, Ms. Rao told reporters that “Beyond rehabilitation, we have to look at development, we have to look at livelihoods, we have to look at communications, all these aspects. So, we are looking at an integrated manner in which we can help the people of the northern province and the eastern province.”
[Last month, in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr. Karunanidhi suggested that the Union government, through diplomatic sources or a special envoy, assess the situation in the affected areas and the progress of rehabilitation measures undertaken by the Sri Lankan government for internally displaced Tamils.]
On the progress of rehabilitation, she said, “We are determined to accelerate the pace of rehabilitation. We want to work much faster.”
Noting that the conflict in Sri Lanka had ended, Ms. Rao said the focus should be on rehabilitation and restoration of livelihoods and satisfactory settlement of the population of eastern and northern provinces.
Referring to the government's decision to open two consulates in Sri Lanka, she said the consulate in Jaffna would be opened this year. This would also enable India to assess the needs of the people of that area better. There had always been close linkages between the northern parts of Sri Lanka and southern parts of India. “We would like to see recreation of that old vision of friendship, affinity that existed across the Palk Strait which had been disrupted by the civil war.”
Explaining the Indian government's programme of assistance for displaced people, the Foreign Secretary said, “We are committed to building 50,000 houses in the north and east of the country. We are beginning with a pilot project of 1,000 houses.”
She added that the Tamil Nadu government had assisted the Union government in providing 2.5 lakh family packs, which were distributed to the displaced persons.
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