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Khurshid justifies India’s presence in CHOGM

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Story Dated: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 11:26 hrs UTC

 Brushing aside the demand of political parties in Tamil Nadu for a total boycott, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid arrived here on Wednesday to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM) this week saying India remains committed to the welfare of the ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka and that “we have to remain engaged” in “enlightened national interest."

Mr. Khurshid was given a warm welcome on arrival here accompanied by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and other officials in a special IAF aircraft.

Mr. Khurshid said though he was here essentially for attending a multilateral conference and not a bilateral engagement, he would have the opportunity on the sidelines of the summit to convey India’s views and concerns to the Sri Lankan government on issues like devolution of more powers to Tamils and attacks on Indian fishermen in the seas off Sri Lanka.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week called off the plans to attend the summit, in the wake of protests from pro-Tamil parties in Tamil Nadu.

Against the backdrop of the unanimous resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Tuesday night, the second in recent times demanding total boycott of CHOGM by India, Mr. Khurshid said he was “perplexed” by the demand.

“We are doing a lot for Tamils of northern areas in Sri Lanka. We are involved in a big project of building 15,000 houses (in the war-ravaged areas), laying roads and erecting infrastructure. Nobody is saying you should not be doing this,” Mr. Khurshid said.

“If we are not here, how can we be doing these things. Therefore, I am perplexed by the people who say we should not go to Sri Lanka. I find this logic somewhat...My job is to look into and represent in India’s enlightened national interest,” he told reporters accompanying him on board the special aircraft that took him on a five-day visit to Sri Lanka.

Mr. Khurshid was replying to questions on the Tamil Nadu Assembly resolutions and the demand of political parties in the state demanding no one from India should attend the CHOGM summit in view of the “gross human rights” violations on civilians during the last phase of the war on LTTE and in the light of Sri Lankan government’s refusal to devolve powers to the provincial council in Tamil-dominated Jaffna.

The External Affairs Minister will be attending the pre-summit meeting of the CHOGM foreign ministers Wednesday and Thursday and represent the country at the summit beginning on Friday.


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