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CHOGM boycott: Manmohan explains to Rajapaksa

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CHOGM boycott: Manmohan explains to Rajapaksa
CHOGM boycott: Manmohan explains to Rajapaksa

New Delhi – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday sent a letter of regret to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, explaining why he is not attending the Commonwealth summit in Colombo next week.

The letter, whose contents were not disclosed, has been sent following the UPA government’s decision to scale down the level of India’s participation at the Nov 15-17 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo in the wake of protests by Tamil Nadu parties and some union ministers over Sri Lanka’s alleged human rights violations and its failure to devolve power to the Tamil minority in the north.

The prime minister, who was in Chhattisgarh Saturday campaigning for the Congress in the assembly elections, returned ro the capital in the night. The letter was sent Sunday, an official source informed IANS.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will now lead the Indian delegation to the CHOGM summit of 53 countries, being held for the first time in Asia after two decades.

Sri Lanka was very keen that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh participate in the summit and had sent its Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris in August to personally hand over the invite.

The prime minister, a strong votary of good neighbourly relations, was also keen to go and the external affairs ministry also was pushing for Manmohan Singh to attend the summit, keeping in mind India’s overall security and strategic interests.

The DMK and AIADMK, along with other Tamil parties, however, have been demanding India boycott the summit and union ministers P. Chidambaram, Jayanthi Natarajan, G.K. Vasan and V. Narayanasamy — who all hail from Tamil Nadu — were pressing the prime minister that he keep in mind Tamil interests while deciding, especially with the general elections in the country just months ahead.

The Congress Core Group at its Friday meeting too decided against the prime minister going to Sri Lanka.

There have been two occasions since 1993 when India sent its external affairs minister to attend the summit – in 1995 at Auckland, New Zealand, Pranab Mukherjee as external affairs minister led the Indian delegation, while in 2002 in Coolum, Australia, it was Jaswant Singh as the external affairs minister who went in place of the prime minister.

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