India to open consulate in Jaffna: Rao

New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) India plans to open a consulate in Jaffna town, an important step to spur New Delhi’s efforts in the reconstruction of Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged north, the government said Monday.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao ‘conveyed that India looked forward to opening a Consulate General in Jaffna’, the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

Sri Lanka has agreed to the proposal, official sources said here.

The consulate in Jaffna, it is hoped, will promote greater people-to-people contact between India and the Tamil population and spur economic activities in a region that was once the breadbasket of Sri Lanka.

Jaffna, in the north of Sri Lanka, is wholly Tamil.

The issue was discussed between Rao and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo Sunday. India has presently a high commission in the capital Colombo and a consulate at Kandy.

Besides its high commission in New Delhi, Sri Lanka has consular offices in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata.

Rao, a former Indian high commissioner to Sri Lanka, returned from a three-day trip to Colombo Monday, her first trip to the country after she became foreign secretary last year.

The modalities regarding the opening of the Jaffna consulate are being finalised, the sources said.

India made a request to open the consulate after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was militarily defeated in May last year.

During her visit, Rao said that India had decided to participate fully in the setting up of the International Buddhist Museum in the Dalada Maligawa complex in Kandy.

Work to set up the Indian gallery will commence soon under the direction of the National Museum of India.

Rao also announced that India would assist in the restoration of the Thiruketheshwaram temple in Mannar. A team from the Archaeological Survey of India and the College of Architecture in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, will visit Sri Lanka to take up this work, the ministry said.

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