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No decision yet, but MEA hints PM may skip CHOGM in Sri Lanka

Nov 09, 2013 12:34 PM IST Politics Politics

New Delhi: It seems the domestic political compulsions have finally forced Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh not to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Colombo between November 13 and 14. The Tamil political parties and even the Congress leaders from Tamil Nadu have managed to prevent the Prime Minister from going to the Sri Lankan capital.

According to high level sources in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) the PM may not attend the meeting. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will represent India in the meeting of all Common Wealth Nations being hosted by the island nation.

Almost ruling out the possibility of the PM visiting Sri Lanka, MEA spokesperson Akbaruddin said, "Decision making on participation stems when we receive an invitation, and there is a process. As an open democracy, we are in that process. For us as diplomats we will only confirm that process once we have a final decision." He hastily added that, "We will look at our national interests and international obligations when we decide our participation at the Commonwealth."

According to CNN-IBN's International Affairs Editor Suhasini Haidar the MEA's spin seems to indicate that the PM may not go. The MEA is also throwing up statistics to downplay the developments.

- In the past 20 years, Indian PM has attended CHOGM 5 out of 10 times
- No Indian PM has attended more than 2 CHOGMs in their tenure
- Manmohan Singh has already attended CHOGM twice - Uganda and Trinidad
- Normally only about 30-32 heads of state attend CHOGM (total 54 countries)

The Tamil Nadu political parties and the Congress leaders from the state have been pressuring the PM not to visit to Colombo. They have been campaigning that the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has violated all human rights during the war with LTTE and the Lankan government should be charged with war crimes.

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India Prasad Kariawasam has already warned India that the nations which don't attend will be isolated. The MEA is in favour of the PM visiting Sri Lanka. It fears that the PM's absence will allow China and Pakistan to have an upper hand in the Lankan affairs. Some veteran diplomats feel that surrendering before the Tamil parties will actually harm India's standing in the Common Wealth.

But, the Congress is scared of losing its alliance partner DMK (currently not a member of the UPA) in an all important election year.

The Prime Minister has come under intense pressure over his visit to the island nation. "The Prime Minister has a conscience, enough if acts according to his conscience. I did not threaten on withdrawing support. It's been long time since we withdrew our support," DMK chief Karunanidhi said. Political parties and various groups in Tamil Nadu are strongly opposed to India's participation in the summit and the Tamil Nadu Assembly recently adopted a resolution demanding a complete boycott of the event alleging