Protests may force Indian PM to skip Commonwealth meet

manmohansleeplessnights2951    With voices of protest against India’s participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo next month growing louder, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to skip the summit.

Sources said pressure from the Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress and the party’s erstwhile partner DMK may have prompted a rethink in the government on the Prime Minister’s participation in the biennial event.

Congress and DMK leaders said there are enough indications to show that the Prime Minister is not willing to attend the meeting, keeping in mind the strong anti-Sri Lanka sentiments in Tamil Nadu. A senior Congress leader said India may be represented at the summit by Vice-President Hamid Ansari and external affairs minister Salman Khurshid.

“The Prime Minister and other senior leaders in the party have been discussing the issue for the last month. We got indications that the PM is not likely to attend the meeting,” a Union minister from Tamil Nadu told TOI. He said the PM is likely to request Ansari to travel to Colombo for the summit.

Ansari had headed the Indian delegation at the last CHOGM in Australia in 2011.

During his recent visit to Sri Lanka, Khurshid had confirmed his participation in the meeting. “I am in touch with the Sri Lankan foreign minister %(G L Peiris). I will obviously come as part of the delegation as the foreign minister,” Khurshid had said. The meeting will begin on November 10.

Manmohan Singh’s recent letter to DMK chief M Karunanidhi also hinted at a rethink on his participation in the meeting. He said the matter would be decided after considering all factors, including the sentiments of people of Tamil Nadu and DMK. Singh conveyed the same to DMK parliamentary leader T R Baalu during a 25-minute meeting in New Delhi on Monday. “We have been demanding that India boycott the meeting. Baalu conveyed our party’s stand and the sentiments of various sections in Tamil Nadu. The response from the PM gave us some hope,” a former DMK Union minister said.

He recalled India’s vote against Sri Lanka at UN following pressure from Tamil Nadu parties, including DMK. “Since Lok Sabha elections are round the corner, Congress would be very conscious of what decision they take. Congress leaders like (Union minister) G K Vasan have been reflecting the mood of TN,” he said.

Following Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to skip the CHOGM, citing Sri Lanka’s human rights record, protests in Tamil Nadu and among Tamil diaspora against India’s participation have grown.

The diaspora has been lobbying with Indian envoys in various countries, including the US and European countries, to boycott the event. Tamil National Alliance in Sri Lanka, which swept the recent Northern Province council elections, has also asked India to follow in the footsteps of the Canadian PM.(The Times of India)

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