Defending the Prime Minister’s decision to skip CHOGM meeting in Sri Lanka,External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday said he has taken a “considered” call on the visit,against which sentiments were also expressed by his ministers,and the ties between the two countries should not be held hostage to this decision.
“The position we’ve taken is not a boycott if I’m going. The Prime Minister has taken a considered call. As you can see,he’s factored in a lot of issues including the importance of his presence in the country at this point of time. We are,after all,facing five elections.
“There were also very strong sentiments expressed by our colleagues in parliament from Tamil Nadu. As indeed,there was a sentiment expressed by that State’s assembly. I think everything must have been factored in and after that a decision was taken,” Khurshid told reporters at a press conference after the conclusion of the two-day Asia-Europe Foreign Ministers (ASEM) meeting here.
Bowing to immense pressure from Tamil parties and members of his own government,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided to skip his visit to Sri Lanka to attend Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit from Friday and wrote to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressing his regret in this regard.
Tamil Nadu political parties and Congress leaders from the state have been opposing the Prime Minister’s visit alleging that Sri Lanka government has committed atrocities and human rights violations against Tamils.
Asked whether he would travel to Sri Lanka despite the resolution by the Tamil Nadu government asking the Centre to avoid even “a token participation” and boycott the Summit,Khurshid,who is leaving for Colombo tomorrow,said he was going and will be present during the entire conference.
The Minister also asserted that it was not for the first time that India was represented by levels other than the head of government.
“There’s a lot to be said about the relationship between our two countries. And it cannot be held hostage to something in which we believe we still have a lot more work to do in terms of the expectations of the Indo-Sri Lanka accord,” the Minister said.
“Also,the fact that the PM is not going does not foreclose any legitimate position we would take in the multilateral fora. We’re not going for a bilateral visit.
We’re going for a multilateral visit within the framework of multilateral work that we do at the Commonwealth,” he said.
Noting that India was proud that its advocacy for elections in the Northern Eastern province has come to fruition,the Minister said there is now an elected government headed by a chief minister,who will also be present at CHOGM’s opening ceremony.
India has huge commitment of investment and rehabilitation in the Northern and Eastern provinces,Khurshid said.