Indian PM calls for dialogue to solve Sri Lankan conflict

BANGALORE, India, June 24, 2006 (AFP) – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday urged dialogue and cooperation for solving the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka that has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972. “We are for the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka,” Singh, who was on a visit to this southern IT hub, told reporters.

“But we also recognise that there is no military solution to this conflict. It (the solution) has to be through dialogue, discussion and give-and-take,” Singh said.

Singh’s comments came days after a visit by Sri Lankan Foreign Mangala Samaraweera to the Indian capital New Delhi to brief the Indian premier on escalating tensions between Colombo and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

A truce between Colombo and the LTTE brokered by Norway in February 2002 has been severely strained by violence that has claimed more than 815 lives since December.

India — which has a sizeable Tamil population — has been supportive of the peace process in Sri Lanka.

But New Delhi has sought to steer clear of the Sri Lankan conflict after its disastrous military involvement during the 1980s when it dispatched a peacekeeping force to Tamil-held regions but ended up battling