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Millennium Post

Losing out on a golden chance

It is ironic that Manmohan Singh, voted the ‘most powerful Sikh’ in the world, has once again bowed to political pressure and decided to skip the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo starting Friday, 15 November. While it’s true that his decision has calmed the flared nerves of the Tamil people in India, and is yet another nod to the pervasive war crimes and staggering human rights abuses against the Tamil ethnic minority that took place in the Lankan nation, it is sad that Singh had to give this crucial chance to dialogue on the Indo-Lankan mutual ties a miss. The Prime Minister could have easily used the platform to firmly underscore India’s stance on the Lankan war crimes as well as give a courtesy explanation of why we voted against Colombo at the UNHRC resolution earlier this year. The fact that despite the anti-Lanka voting, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government had extended an invitation to Singh was proof enough that Sri Lanka was interested in clearing the air and make a fresh start. Obviously, the issue of devolution of power to the provinces, particularly the Tamil-dominated Northern Province, as per the 13th Amendment, would have a moot point, but the idea of a CHOGM was to further dialogues and multilateral talks, not reject them. Moreover, by skipping the much-hyped visit to Jaffna, the PM has actually let down the persecuted Tamils of the island nation.

Naturally, the powerful Tamil lobby in India, including the AIADMK and DMK supremos Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, as well as union ministers including P Chidambaram were united on this sensitive issue. But as much as the significance of the electorally-heavy Tamil parties in the run up to the 2014 general elections might weigh on his decision to not attend the meet, looks like Singh has buckled under pressure from not the bevy of ministers but from his top leader herself. As this newspaper reports today, it was Lanka’s refusal to uphold the Rajiv-Jayawardene accord that ultimately stopped the PM in his tracks. Talk about posthumous hold of a certain deceased prime minister.
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