The Congress has given a go-ahead to prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Colombo for the Commonwealth Government Heads of Government Meeting on November 16-17, saying it has opted for national security interests over domestic political interests.
The issue was discussed at the party’s core group meeting on Wednesday after the Tamil Nadu assembly passed a unanimous resolution last week urging the PM to skip the meeting over Sri Lanka’s alleged human rights violations.
Congress leaders are claiming that the party is ready to sacrifice electoral gains in Tamil Nadu in the larger interest of the nation however analysts say it has little to lose electorally in the state after breaking up with the DMK. They say the PM has been given a free hand to decide on the issue.
However, sources in the government say no decision has been yet taken on the prime minister’s visit to Colombo. “A process has been set in motion to arrive at a decision on this matter. We are taking into consideration all aspects our national interest, our foreign policy priorities and our international obligation. That process has not reached its culmination...,” an MEA spokesperson said.
Canadian prime minister is boycotting the CHOGM meeting protesting Sri Lankan government’s failure to investigate war crimes against Tamils in Northern province of Jaffna during the military campaign against the LTTE. The British Queen is also skipping the summit for the first time in 40 years, although for other reasons.
DMK chief M Karunanidhi on Thursday warned the prime minister against attending the conclave, saying “his party will face the consequences”. Even union minister GK Vasan MP from Tamil Nadu met the PM and urged him to miss the summit.
However, according to sources in the PMO, the external affairs ministry believes he should attend the conclave to keep Sri Lanka in the diplomatic loop in the larger “national security interests” keeping in view the increasing Chinese activities in the region.
On Wednesday, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid and national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon were invited to the Congress core group meeting to give a presentation on the pros and cons of PM’s visit to Sri Lanka. And Menon reportedly told the leaders that the PM’s attending the summit would allow India to influence the Sri Lankan government for a meaningful political settlement.
The meeting was attended by party president Sonia Gandhi, the prime minister, finance minister P Chidambaram, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, defence minister AK Antony and Sonia’s political adviser Ahmed Patel.
Meanwhile, at a strategic conference here, experts called on the government to take foreign policy decisions independent of its domestic constrains, referring to the UPA government’s inability to abide by commitments with Bangladesh even though the country reciprocated India’s security concerns. Similarly, they also asked the government to take a decision on Sri Lanka by keeping in view the larger picture rather Tamil Nadu politics. “New Delhi is captured by Tamil Nadu as for as its Sri Lanka policy is concerned and it has to come out of this. India should not help in creating a particular perception among people of Sri Lanka,” said Dr Dayan Jayatilleka a Sri Lankan diplomat. He said India’s decision to skip the CHOGM meeting would vilify the bilateral and regional relations.