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India doesn't want refugees from Sri Lanka: Pranab

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NEW DELHI: India on Thursday said it does not want influx of Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka into its territory, saying it is the responsibility of the island nation to provide food and shelter to civilians displaced because of hostilities there.

"We will not like influx of refugees to Tamil Nadu because of a situation over which we have no control. We are prevailing upon them (Sri Lanka), it is your responsibility to provide food, shelter and medicine to your displaced people," external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said in the Rajya Sabha.

He was replying to clarifications sought on his suo motu statement made in the House on Wednesday on the situation in Sri Lanka.

When senior Indian officials visited Sri Lanka recently, they told their counterparts that New Delhi would like to have an overall assessment before meeting their requirements. This was because "we would not like international players in our backyard", Mukherjee said.

He was specifically responding to the concerns of leader of the opposition Jaswant Singh over China, Sri Lanka and Pakistan forging strategic relations in the region.

Mukherjee said Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was sending his senior political adviser Basil Rajapaksa to India "by the weekend" and there will be some discussion.

"We will provide whatever assistance they require for rehabilitation, relief and succour to the displaced persons," he said.

He maintained that the ultimate solution could be achieved through implementation of the recommendations of the high-powered committee, devolution of power and giving autonomy in certain areas.

On the killing of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, over which several members from Tamil Nadu expressed serious concern, he said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already taken up the issue with the Sri Lankan leaders.

"There is no justification for Sri Lanka Navy shooting Indian fishermen. You can arrest them as it often happens in Pakistan. But there is no reason why the Sri Lankan Navy will fire upon our fishermen," Mukherjee said.

He said they have agreed to work out a mechanism for a practical solution to resolve the issue and added that some arrangements were being worked out to ensure that the fishermen are adequately warned.