Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday expressed satisfaction over External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid attending the CHOGM summit.
“I am satisfied,” he told a press conference when asked whether he was satisfied with the level of Indian participation at the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meet that opens here on Friday.
When an Indian reporter stated that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has skipped the conference in deference to public sentiments in Tamil Nadu, Mr. Rajapaksa shot back, “But he has not said this to me“.
The President noted that the Indian Prime Minister had not attended a previous summit in Perth two years ago.
“The Foreign Minister is here. I am satisfied,” he said.
Ignoring demands from political parties in Tamil Nadu for a total boycott, Mr. Khurshid on Wednesday arrived here for the summit, making it clear that India’s participation is not in any way dilution of its stand on Tamils in Sri Lanka.
India remains committed to the welfare of Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamils and would have to remain engaged with Sri Lanka in the “enlightened national interest”, Mr. Khurshid had said.
Putting conditions like India must not have anything to do with Sri Lanka would make things untenable, he had said.
He said though he was in Colombo to attend a multilateral conference and not for a bilateral engagement, he would have the opportunity on the sidelines of the meet to convey India’s views and concerns to the Sri Lankan government on issues like devolving more powers to Tamils and attacks on Indian fishermen in the seas off Sri Lanka.
Dr. Singh, who was planning to attend the three-day summit, was last week forced to call off his plans because of competitive politics in Tamil Nadu and fear of isolation of the Congress party in the state ahead of next year’s elections.
Against the backdrop of a unanimous resolution passed by Tamil Nadu Assembly demanding a total boycott of CHOGM by India, Mr. Khurshid had said he was “perplexed” by the demand.
“We are doing a lot for Tamils of northern areas in Sri Lanka. We are involved in a big project of building 50,000 houses (in war-ravaged areas), laying roads and erecting infrastructure. Nobody is saying you should not be doing this,” he said. (The Hindu)