Whose loss is it anyway? — The CHOGM conundrum
By Subha Roy
New Delhi – After series of negotiations and weeks of speculation, a decision has finally been taken on whether or not India should take part in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)in Sri Lanka this week.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will not be attending CHOGM in Sri Lanka from November 15 to 17. Instead, the Indian delegation will be led by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.
The pressure on Dr. Singh from various Tamil organizations and regional parties like the DMK and AIADMK to skip CHOGM was tremendous, though many feel his absence from the summit sends out a wrong message to the world, and could result in friction in ties between the two neighbours.
We must also take note of the fact that Canada has already decided to boycott the summit, citing Sri Lanka’s inability to defend itself against charges of committing war crimes on its minority Tamil population.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that he will send out a tough message to Colombo once he arrives in the Sri Lankan capital for CHOGM.
DMK supremo M Karunanidhi has welcomed Prime Minister Singh’s decision to skip CHOGM.
But the question being asked by everyone is – whose loss is it anyway? While India is considered one of the key players in South Asia’s geo-politics, was it right for Prime Minister Singh to give in to the demands of regional powers?
Some sections of the media also suggest that Sri Lanka might take this entire episode with a pinch of salt.
The Lankan English media seems more concerned about Prince Charles attending the summit than Manmohan Singh!
Participation in CHOGM aside, another development that needs to be taken note of from New Delhi’s perspective is Sri Lanka cosying up to both China and Pakistan.
Chinese investment in Sri Lanka is on the rise, as can be seen by its sponsorship of the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway and funding of the Hambantota Port to the tune of 85 per cent.
Beijing also has a hand in the construction of several roads in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is actually being used by China to accomplish its “String of Pearls” strategy. So, is India’s loss (if any), China and Pakistan’s gain?
There are two camps holding divergent views on this episode. One, is of course, the pro-Tamil groups, who have already hailed Singh’s decision to give the summit a miss, and the other states that a much stronger message could have been given to Sri Lanka.
This second group believes Manmohan Singh should have visited Sri Lanka in order to get a first-hand experience of what the “actual” condition of the Tamils are in North and then act accordingly.
But then, Lanka is already reeling under pressure from various organizations on its war-crimes record.
So, only time will tell what repurcussions will Manmohan Singh’s absence from the CHOGM summit have for Indo-Lanka relations.
Till then, we’re free to speculate on whose loss is it anyway.