On Board Special Aircraft: India's External Affairs Minister SM Krishna secured a firm commitment from Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on devolution of powers to the Northern Province for a lasting political settlement with the dominant Tamil minority.

“Rajapaksa gave me a categorical assurance that he was committed to implement the 13th Amendment of the Constitution for empowering the Tamil-dominant northern region,” Krishna said on Thursday on way back from a four-day hectic trip to the picturesque island nation.

Terming the visit fruitful, a visibly relaxed Krishna said he was more than satisfied with the blossoming of the relationship and strengthening of bilateral cooperation in the reconstruction and development of the Tamils, languishing as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in relief camps since the bloody war ended in mid-2009.

“It goes without saying that Article 13 should be implemented in a visible manner. Till then, we will look forward to the implementation of the assurances given to the Sri Lankan people and during the talks we had,” Krishna asserted onboard the Embraer jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) that ferried him to and from Sri Lanka.

Noting that the visit gave him an opportunity to interact with the top Sri Lankan leadership on a number of bilateral issues, including the political settlement with the Tamils, Krishna said the frank-and-free discussions had allayed his apprehensions over their commitment to implement the 13th Amendment.

The amendment under reference of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka accord seeks to devolve powers to the provincial councils, especially in the northern and eastern regions of the country where Tamil-speaking minority has been living over the centuries.

Referring to his chopper trips to Kilinochchi and Jaffna in north and Galle in south Wednesday and Thursday for overseeing rehab measures, Krishna said he was very happy to have handed over 49 houses built for some of the IDPs.

“As the housing project is our flagship programme and biggest overseas, it is imperative to sustain it to build about 50,000 units over the next couple of years. On the whole, I have a sense of satisfaction that all the programmes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced earlier are being pursued in Sri Lanka,” Krishna added.

As minster, Krishna visited Sri Lanka on a three-day visit in November 2010 and flew to the war-ravaged Jaffna in north and Galle in south for initiating various development programmes.

(Agencies)