Manmohan Singh may not attend CHOGM summit in Sri Lanka

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is unlikely to go to Sri Lanka to attend the CHOGM summit in view of the strong sentiments in Tamil Nadu against the visit.

PTI| Updated: Nov 08, 2013, 22:24 PM IST

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is unlikely to go to Sri Lanka to attend the CHOGM summit in view of the strong sentiments in Tamil Nadu against the visit.

At a meeting of the top brass of the Congress at the residence of Prime Minister this morning a view emerged that it would be "difficult" for Singh to visit Sri Lanka at this juncture, party sources said.

They said that the meeting took note of the fact that all political parties in Tamil Nadu are opposed to a visit by the Prime Minister to Sri Lanka and that the state assembly had passed a unanimous resolution against India participating in the Commonwealth summit.

The Congress Core Group meeting at the Prime Minister`s residence was chaired by party President Sonia Gandhi and was attended among others by senior ministers A K Antony, P Chidambaram, Sushilkumar Shinde and Gandhi`s political secretary Ahmed Patel.

The sources, however, said that a final decision has not been taken. It could take a day or two for the government to formalise its stand, they indicated.

Political parties in Tamil Nadu and several other outfits have opposed India`s participation at any level in the CHOGM meet alleging that the Sri Lankan government had committed gross violation of human rights and had no plans to devolve powers to the ethnic Tamils.

Three Union ministers G K Vasan, V Narayanasamy and Jayanthi Natarajan have publicly opposed the Prime Minister`s participation in the summit.

The External Affairs Ministry headed by Salman Khurshid has, however, been favouring Singh`s presence in the CHOGM scheduled on November 15, maintaining that it was vital as it will reflect India`s interests. It is also paramount to the nation`s strategic and security interests, the MEA feels.

The MEA officials are also keen that the Prime Minister takes the opportunity to visit Northern Province where India has given lot of assistance.

Chief Minister of Northern Provincial Council C V Vigneswaran has already written to Singh, inviting him to Jaffna and expressed his gratitude for Indian assistance.

The issue was discussed on October 30 by the Core Group and Union Ministers P Chidambaram and A K Antony are learnt to have suggested that the PM should not visit Colombo to attend the meet.

Congress has so far refused to take a stand in public on the politically-sensitive issue. The party has said it will back whatever decision the Prime Minister takes on India`s participation in the summit keeping in mind national interests.

At the AICC briefing, Congress spokesperson Randip Singh Surjewala said,"a decision will be taken keeping in mind the interests of Tamils in Sri Lanka, the overwhelming opinion expressed for and against by the political parties in Tamil Nadu and strategic and national interests of the country, the view of the newly-elected Chief Minister of Tamil-majority province."

Besides, Surjewala said, human rights "violations" in Sri Lanka have been a "matter of serious and grave concern" for Tamils in India.

"To ensure more participatory democracy and devolution of powers to the elected Tamils and ensuring justice and transparency have been the policy of the government of India", he said adding all these factors will be taken into account when the Prime Minister takes a call.

Replying to a question whether foreign policy of the country could be a state-centric, he said "national interest is paramount. It is above all. The Prime Minister will decide appropriately." PTI AMR SPG
BJP also expressed concern over the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils but remained non- committal on whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should attend the CHOGM Summit in Colombo.

"We are watching the developments closely," a BJP source said as the party chief Rajnath Singh held detailed deliberations on the issue with party leaders from Tamil Nadu, who demanded that the party should put pressure on the government that prime minister should not attend the CHOGM.

Though BJP has virtually no stakes in Tamil Nadu politics, it does not want to antagonise the state parties and the people ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, sources said.
BJP is also in touch with AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa and is hopeful that the party will join the NDA after the polls if the coalition is in a position to form the government.
CPI MP D Raja also demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should not attend the CHOGM Summit in Colombo because it would go against strong public opinion in Tamil Nadu.