PM to skip Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka; Salman Khurshid will head Indian delegation

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PM to skip Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka; Salman Khurshid will head Indian delegation
New Delhi:  External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will head the Indian delegation at the CHOGM Summit to be held in Sri Lanka next week with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh deciding against undertaking the visit in view of the opposition by parties in Tamil Nadu as well as a section in the Congress.

The decision on level of Indian representation and Dr Singh skipping the meet will be communicated to the Lankan government by tomorrow, sources said.

"The Prime Minister is likely to write to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa by tomorrow regarding his decision," government sources said.

However, there was no official announcement over Dr Singh's decision to skip the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit on November 15-16.

Political parties in Tamil Nadu and several other outfits have opposed India's participation at any level in the CHOGM meet alleging that the Sri Lankan government had committed gross violation of human rights and had no plans to devolve powers to the ethnic Tamils.

However, Mr Khurshid has been favouring Dr Singh's presence in the CHOGM scheduled on November 15, maintaining that it was vital as it will reflect India's interests. According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), it is also paramount to the nation's strategic and security interests.

Asked if there was a possibility of Vice-President Hamid Ansari representing India at the CHOGM if Dr Singh decides not to go, MEA spokesperson did not give a direct reply.

He, however, said in 10 summit level meetings since 1993, the Prime Minister represented India five times while on four occasions, ministers had headed the Indian delegation. There was one instance of the Vice-President representing India.

"So what you can summarise from this is that what we have followed in terms of participation in the CHOGM is an approach of something akin to horses for courses.

"We focused on what is required for our national interest, our foreign policy priorities and our international obligations. Taking those into account we have our delegations led by different people," he said.


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