CHOGM: PM to write to Lankan Prez

Last Updated: Sun, Nov 10, 2013 18:37 hrs

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will write to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressing regret for not being able to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Colombo on Nov 15.

Coming under pressure from the South lobby, Singh has finally decided to skip the CHOGM, deputing External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to attend the same.

According to reports, the South Block on Saturday drafted the PM´s letter, which would need to be carefully worded, with the PM expected to examine it after returning from Chhattisgarh.

Instead of the PM visiting, Khurshid will head the Indian delegation to the summit.

Defending the PM´s stand, Khurshid in an interview to NDTV channel said,"I don´t think we should look at any one single dimension to this decision. Let´s not forget that the Prime Minister doesn´t always go to Commonwealth (meetings)."

"The Prime Minister is campaigning and of course there are a lot of issues in Tamil Nadu and many other important things that are on the Prime Minister´s plate right now. So there could be a lot of reasons that went into this decision," Khurshid said.

While media reports suggest that domestic politics prevailed over India´s diplomatic interests, Khurshid told the channel that,"We have a very important relationship with Sri Lanka. I don´t think we should see this as a switch-on-switch-off affair."

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) supremo M Karunanidhi has welcomed Singh´s decision to boycott the CHOGM.

"It is some consolation to us that at least the Prime Minister has given respect to our voice and is not attending the summit," Karunanidhi said.

"The Prime Minister has a conscience. It will be enough for us if he acts according to his conscience," Karunanidhi had earlier said while appealing to him to skip the meet.

"Also I would like to clarify that I did not threaten the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on withdrawing support on the issue," he said.

The Congress Core Group on Friday met here to take a final decision on Singh´s visit to Sri Lanka.

The meeting was headed by party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Congress leader and Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan on Monday reportedly said she was opposed to Singh´s visit to Sri Lanka.

"I have requested a meeting with the Prime Minister. I want to convey the strong sentiments of people of Tamil Nadu on his Sri Lanka visit," said Natarajan.

"I will request him to factor sentiments against his visit when he considers his final decision," said the Tamil Nadu MP.

Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram was also reportedly opposed to Singh´s visit to Colombo.

CNN-IBN channel quoting sources reported that Chidambaram as a Tamil MP feels that the government must factor in state interests.

The Tamil Nadu state assembly had earlier adopted a resolution urging that the PM skip the event.

Union Shipping Minister G K Vasan, who belongs to the Congress party, met Singh on Oct 31 to urge him to miss the Colombo session.

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