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PM to skip CHOGM in Lanka
External Affairs Minister Khurshid to represent India
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 9
Bowing to pressure from his own key Cabinet colleagues as well as political parties in Tamil Nadu, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has decided against attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo next week to register Indiaís protest over human rights violations in the island nation.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will head the Indian delegation to the 53-nation summit to be held from November 15-17, it is understood. It is learnt that the Prime Minister would shortly write to Lankan President Mahinda Rajapksa expressing his inability to attend the summit.

Talking to mediapersons here, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin maintained that India had not communicated to Sri Lanka the outcome of its internal process of decision-making on the issue. Asked by when New Delhi would convey to Colombo the level of its participation, he said there were no timelines for communicating such a diplomatic message.

The spokesperson pointed out that the Prime Minister had attended the summit only five times out of 10 since 1993. Of the remaining five summits, four were attended by a minister and one by the Vice-President.

It is learnt that both the PMO and the MEA were strongly in favour of the Prime Ministerís participation in the meeting as his absence would upset another strategically important neighbour of India.

In fact, they were also trying to include a brief visit to Jaffna, the capital of Tamil-dominated Northern Province, in the Prime Ministerís itinerary. But pressure continued to mount on the Centre both from the DMK and the AIADMK to give a miss to the summit to convey Indiaís disapproval of the atrocities committed on the Tamils during the final phase of the war against the LTTE in 2009.

The Tamil Nadu Assembly had, in fact, passed a resolution, asking India to boycott the summit. Amid increasing pressure, the Congress Core Group had met yesterday to take a call on the issue. Defence Minister AK Antony and Finance Minister P Chidambaram argued against the Prime Minister visiting Colombo and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde concurred with their view. Though Congress president Sonia Gandhi was of the opinion that domestic politics should not be mixed with the countryís foreign policy, she feared that the situation in Tamil Nadu could become explosive in the event of the PM attending the summit. Ultimately, the PM was told to skip the summit in the nationís best interest.

The option of requesting Vice-President Hamid Ansari also was considered. But it was felt that asking him to attend the summit would mean upgrading the visiting since Vice-President is above the PM in terms of constitutional protocol.

Colombo not informed yet

* MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said India had not communicated the decision to Sri Lanka so far

* The Prime Minister would shortly write to Lankan President Mahinda Rajapksa expressing his inability to attend the summit, it was learnt

It is some consolation to us that at least the Prime Minister has given respect to our voice and is not attending the Summitó M Karunanidhi, dmk president 

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