Amid indication that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is unlikely to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in Sri Lanka, the external affairs ministry on Saturday said no decision has been taken on the visit, which has been opposed by parties in Tamil Nadu as well as a section in Congress.
However, government sources said that the PM will skip the meet. External Affairs Salman Khurshid will represent India at Colombo instead, reported CNN-IBN.
The decision will be communicated to Lanka in the next 24 hours, the television channel reported.
But, spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin said the government was yet to communicate to Sri Lanka who will lead the Indian delegation at the CHOGM on November 15-16. "Decision making in terms of participation in an international event stems or starts when we receive an invitation. And there are series of processes after that. As an open and pluralist democracy, we have been in that process," he said. Akrabuddin said a decision on the matter has not been conveyed to Sri Lanka yet.
"For us, as diplomats the process ends when we confirm to the host government the composition of our delegation for an international event. We have not yet done that.... We have not yet communicated to the host the outcome of our internal decision making process and it is normal in diplomatic practice to make this public once we communicated," he said in reply to questions on the issue.
At a meeting of the Congress core group at the residence of the PM on Friday, a view had emerged that it would be "difficult" for Dr Singh to visit Sri Lanka at this juncture, party sources said. They said that the meeting took note of the fact that all political parties in Tamil Nadu are opposed to a visit by the PM to Sri Lanka and that the state assembly had passed a unanimous resolution against India participating in the Commonwealth summit.
Asked if there was a possibility of Vice President Hamid Ansari representing India at the CHOGM if Singh decides not to go, Akrabudin did not give a direct reply. He, however, said in 10 summit level meetings since 1993,
the PM represented India five times while on four occasions, ministers had headed the Indian delegation. There was one instance of the vice president representing India.
"So what you can summarise from this is that what we have followed terms of participation in the CHOGM is an approach of something akin to horses for courses. We focused on what is required for our national interest, our foreign policy priorities and our international obligations. Taking those into account we have our delegations led by different people," he said.
The MEA spokesperson said Sri Lanka has already been communicated that the ministerial meeting will be represented by Khurshid. He will be assisted by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and senior officials Pawan Kapoor and Navtej Sarna.
Asked if Dr Singh will go to Jaffna if he decides to participate in the Summit, the spokesperson did not give a direct reply and instead said it depends on who leads the Indian delegation. He, however, said there have been instances of Indian leaders going to Jaffna when they visited Colombo.
Akrabuddin referred to the then external affairs minister S M Krishna's visit to Jaffna when he visited Sri Lanka in January 2012. He said Khurshid also visited Jaffna when he had gone to Colombo recently.
Political parties in Tamil Nadu and several other outfits have opposed India's participation at any level in the CHOGM meet alleging that the Sri Lankan government had committed gross violation of human rights and had no plans to devolve powers to the ethnic Tamils.
The MEA headed by Khurshid has, however, been favouring Dr Singh's presence in the CHOGM scheduled on November 15, maintaining that it was vital as it will reflect India's interests. It is also paramount to the nation's strategic and security interests, the MEA feels.
The MEA officials are also keen that the PM takes the opportunity to visit Northern Province where India has given lot of assistance. Chief Minister of Northern Provincial Council C V Vigneswaran has already written to Singh, inviting him to Jaffna and expressed his gratitude for Indian assistance.