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Indian PM to skip Sri Lanka summit over abuse

Foreign Minister to attend Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting instead of PM, who was under huge domestic pressure.

Last updated: 09 Nov 2013 19:30
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Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, left, has been accused of doing little for political reconciliation [File:EPA]

Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, will not attend a Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka after opposition from regional parties and members of his ruling Congress party, according to NDTV news channel.

Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid would represent the country at the summit instead of the prime minister, who was pressed by Indian Tamil groups and powerful federal ministers to skip the 53-nation meeting over alleged human rights abuses by Colombo.

The decision was taken after core group of the Congress party met to discuss calls of boycott over alleged massacre of Tamil civilians by Sri Lankan forces in 2009, at the end of the island's decades-long civil war, NDTV reported.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) runs from November 15-17.

The Hindustan Times newspaper quoted an unnamed ruling party source as saying it would be "very difficult" for Singh to attend the meeting, given strong domestic objections to his participation.

Colombo has resisted international pressure to probe charges its troops killed 40,000 civilians in the final push against Tamil separatist rebels that ended the conflict.

India has 62 million Tamils in its southern Tamil Nadu state who share close religious and cultural ties with their Sri Lankan counterparts.

Political reconciliation

Indian Tamil political parties as well as the main opposition party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, have also urged Singh not to attend the meeting.

Congress is keen not to alienate potential supporters with elections due by May 2014, even at the expense of worsening ties with its southern neighbour.

Syed Akbaruddin, the foreign ministry spokesman, said New Delhi was fully satisfied with progress on Sri Lanka's pledge to implement a 1987 constitutional amendment to give regional autonomy to the island's Tamil minority.

The Tamil-majority Northern Province went to polls last month in which Tamil party did extremely well, but the regional government has been enshrined with little power.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been accused of doing little for reconciliation between the Tamil minority and the majority Sinhala community.

Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged his counterparts in April to follow him in boycotting CHOGM.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, however, has said that he would attend the summit.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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