Sunday, November 10, 2013

PM tells Lanka he won\'t come, Colombo says it \'understands\'

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has conveyed to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa his inability to attend (CHOGM) beginning November 15. A short letter by Singh was handed over to Rajapaksa by Indian diplomats in Colombo on Sunday.

The November 9 letter, however, does not talk about the reasons for Singh skipping the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting from November 15 to 17, sources said. It says that External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will be representing Singh.

The letter is in response to Rajapaksa\'s invitation to Singh, which was hand-delivered on August 19.

Lanka played down Singh\'s decision to stay away, saying it was not a setback and adding that it understood the domestic political compulsions behind the move. \"It will not affect the success of CHOGM,\" Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris said. \"Sri Lankans would have been happier if he came.\"

Parties in Tamil Nadu as well as a section in the Congress, including at least three Cabinet ministers, had opposed India\'s participation at any level in CHOGM on grounds of the charges against the Sri Lankan government of gross violation of human rights and its failure to devolve powers to ethnic Tamils.

Khurshid himself had favoured Singh attending CHOGM, saying it was vital for India\'s interests.

Singh became the second head of state after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to stay away from the meeting. Harper said he was skipping it as Sri Lanka had failed to show progress in addressing alleged human rights violations in the country.
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