With India election-bound, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has ruled out his return to office, arrived Monday in Myanmarese capital Nay Pyi Taw to go through the motions of a regional summit and touch base one last time with leaders of a grouping that seeks to bridge South Asia with ASEAN.
Singh flew out of New Delhi for Nay Pyi Taw, for the third BIMSTEC summit — the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Hours after landing in Nay Pyi Taw, Singh met President Thein Sein, who is chairing the summit as host, and Nepal’s new Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. His meetings with Rajapaksa, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi are scheduled for Tuesday on the sidelines of the summit.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, responding to a query from The Indian Express on the Prime Minister’s meeting with Koirala, said: “Prime Minister Koirala is still getting a feel of what he has to do… He is very keen that our Prime Minister visit Nepal but the Prime Minister has said it is difficult. He said hope you will come to India instead. Issues important to both sides were mentioned. and the handing over (by India) of a trauma centre in Kathmandu, which is ready, will happen soon.”
It is Singh’s meeting with President Rajapaksa on Tuesday that is being tracked closely given the opposition back home by Tamil parties. Hours after Singh arrived in Nay Pyi Taw, official sources underlined that India’s vote on a resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva for alleged war crimes against Tamils would depend on the text of the draft and would be guided by “our own interests”.
Twice in the last two years, India voted against Sri Lanka after Tamil parties mounted pressure on the UPA government resulting in a cooling of ties. The US-led resolution, which will be put to vote later this month, calls for an international probe into allegations of war crimes during the final battle with the Tamil Tigers in 2009. Under pressure from Tamil parties, Prime Minister Singh had called off a trip to Sri Lanka when it hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
When asked how India would vote in Geneva, Khurshid said: “We have not received any draft (of the resolution). We have checked with Sri Lanka and they too haven’t received any draft.”
In a statement before leaving for Nay Pyi Taw, the Prime Minister called for a collective effort to combat security challenges, improve connectivity and trade in the region.
“Security challenges, both natural and man-made, require our continued…