Sri Lanka President pushes joint sea patrols on Indian visit

NEW DELHI, Nov 26, 2006 (AFP) – The visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse Sunday sounded out India on joint patrolling of their maritime border in a bid to halt smuggling and cross-border terrorism. Rajapakse, who began a five-day working visit to India Sunday, told reporters he planned to talk to Indian leaders about strengthening patrols along the Palk Straits, the narrow strip of sea that divides the two nations.

“I will be explaining my position to them, we want joint patrolling with India in the sea because not only arms are being smuggled into our country, but drugs are also coming,” Rajapakse said.

“If Tigers get stronger, that will be also be a threat not only to Sri Lanka but also to the world,” Rajapakse said after laying a foundation stone for the Indo-Sri Lanka Human Rights Centre here.

Asked whether he would open negotiations with the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Rajapakse said he had been strongly advocating talks from the day he assumed power a year ago.

Rajapakse’s administration had two rounds of talks which ended in failure, but both the Tigers and his government have vowed to uphold a Norwegian-arranged 2002 truce that is holding only on paper.