NEW DELHI, India, April7 Reuter: India sharply criticized Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa on Thursday for revealing details of a meeting with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at which troop strength on the Island was discussed.

The Indian pique was apparently prompted by a Sri Lankan press release which quoted Gandhi as saying “around 75,000” Indian troops were in the Island — about 25,000 higher than the troop strength released by Indian officials in Colombo.

The troops have been deployed in the North and East to enforce last July’s IndoSri Lankan accord to end the Island’s Tamil separatist revolt.

Premadasa met with Gandhi on Wednesday evening. The press release was issued by the Sri Lankan High Commission (Embassy) in New Delhi on Thursday.

Premadasa in the past has criticized India for helping, prior to the signing of the peace accord, the Tamil rebels who have waged a five year long violent campaign for an independent homeland on the Island.

An Indian government statement said the press release “quoted the Prime Minister, Mr. Rajiy Gandhi, selectively out of context and inaccurately… on the strength of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka”.

The press release quoted Premadasa as telling Gandhi the Island’s government “is being accused of allowing over 100,000 Indian troops to remain on the Island”.

Gandhi replied, according to the release, “that the number of IPKF troops is around 75,000. Itis his desire to withdraw the Indian troops as early as possible.”

The Press Trust of India (PTI), quoting official sources, said Gandhi did not give specific figure for the IPKF strength.

Indian High Commission (Embassy) officials in Colombo recently estimated the number of Indian troops in Sri Lanka as about 50,000.

Premadasa, who was in India on a private visit, left for Nepal on Thursday.

Article extracted from this publication >> April 15, 1988