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In a bid to play down the domestic opposition to India’s participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said on Wednesday it was in India’s “enlightened national interest” to engage with the island nation.
The minister, who is heading the Indian delegation for the CHOGM after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided against attending the meet, said even to impress upon Colombo the importance of the Tamil question, there had to be engagement with the Sri Lankan government and regional leaders should do an assessment of what India had been doing for the Tamil minority in Lanka, especially for their resettlement and rehabilitation.
“It is a failure for some to see what is in the enlightened national interests, our self-interests. If it comes in the way of foreign policy, obviously in it is an impediment,” Khurshid told journalists travelling with him to Colombo for the CHOGM, to take place from November 15 to 17.
“I can’t discuss any of these issues unless I am not going to be there,” he said, referring to devolution of powers in the Tamil-dominated province of northern Sri Lanka or Indian fishermen languishing in the jail.
Domestic opposition to India’s participation in the CHOGM was because of alleged human rights violations by Sri Lankan soldiers in the final phases of the war against the Tamil insurgency.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had buckled under pressure from political parties in Tamil Nadu as well as Congress leaders to stay away from the CHOGM.
The Tamil Nadu assembly on Tuesday adopted a resolution reiterating that India should not take part in the CHOGM.
The resolution, moved by chief minister Jayalalithaa, expressed deep regret over the decision of the central government to send Khurshid for the CHOGM, terming it a move that neither consoled the Tamils nor respected their sentiments. The assembly had passed a similar resolution on October 24.