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On UN Lanka vote, India’s ‘own interests’ supreme

Twice in the last two years, Tamil parties mounted pressure on the UPA govt and India voted against Sri Lanka, resulting in temporary cooling of ties.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is welcomed on his arrival in Nay Pyi Taw on Monday to attend the 3rd BIMSTEC Summit. (PTI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is welcomed on his arrival in Nay Pyi Taw on Monday to attend the 3rd BIMSTEC Summit. (PTI)

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 collective vision and determination to be overcome… We set great store by BIMSTEC cooperation in the years ahead, for which this summit should play a critical role,” he said.

Last week, when Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh was asked how India would vote at Geneva, she said the government was still to firm up its stand. “I would suggest you wait till the vote actually takes place. You are aware this is a fairly complex process… We have to see the text of the resolution, we have to take several other factors into account, and then we will finally vote,” she said.

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 collective vision and determination to be overcome… We set great store by BIMSTEC cooperation in the years ahead, for which this summit should play a critical role,” he said.

“BIMSTEC lies at the crossroads between SAARC and ASEAN, drawing its energy from the natural convergence of the countries around the Bay of Bengal. Connectivity and sub-regional cooperation in trade and investment, energy, climate, tourism, agriculture and other areas provide the spark for the growth engine in our region…”

“BIMSTEC has evolved as a group since the last summit in New Delhi in 2008. With the impending establishment of a permanent secretariat in Dhaka and appointment of a secretary general, it is poised to play a more active role in regional integration and cooperation. Several BIMSTEC centres are being launched throughout the region, including three in India, to foster greater technical exchanges between member countries,” Singh said.

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