Sri Lanka wants India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo next month, adorning its leadership role vis-a-vis regional and global geo-political equations.
However, with a resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu assembly on Thursday, Singh is yet to decide if he would attend CHOGM. The resolution that was moved by Chief minister J Jayalalithaa and passed unanimously by the state Assembly urged the Centre not to send even representatives for the meeting being hosted by Sri Lanka leave alone the prime minister.
Colombo's refusal to conduct investigations under international watch against allegations of human rights violations on Tamils during its long civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has strained diplomatic ties with India owing to a tough stand taken by the Tamil Nadu government.
CNN-IBN's Foreign Affairs Editor Suhasini Haider caught up with Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India Prasad Kariyawasam in New Delhi and talked about Sri Lanka's position on the diplomatic challenges with India and why the Colombo dithers from a clean and conclusive investigation on allegations of human rights violations. Edited excerpts:
To begin with high commissioner, it is not just calls from civil society itself but the Tamil Nadu Assembly as well talking about a resolution to stop the prime minister from going to Sri Lanka the resolution calling for a boycott of the CHOGM itself - how do you respond to that?
Sri Lanka takes its international responsibilities very seriously and the Commonwealth governments unanimously had agreed that we host the Commonwealth Summit in Colombo. The Commonwealth Summit is being held in Asia after 30 years. It's a very important occasion for Asia. The prime minister of India is not only a leader in this region but also a leader in Asia, leader in Commonwealth and even in fact of the world. So bearing that in mind our external affairs minister came personally to invite the Indian prime minister. We didn't go to each and every country so it is a decision that India will have to take bearing in mind their national responsibilities, their profile and their importance in the multinational meeting. It is not a bilateral meeting where India should be present at the highest level, so it's a decision by the Indian government and we leave it to them.
It isn't just the Canadian prime minister who has said that Canada will boycott the CHOGM, the Queen for the first time in 40 years will not be attending this particular Commonwealth for whatever reason. Other international groups including Amnesty International have asked to boycott it. Aren't you worried that on India's decision hinges a lot of other countries' decisions? Sri Lanka could be isolated.
Except for the Canadian Prime Minister who had publicly said that he is not coming, that is obviously due to the Tamil nationalist lobby in Canada. All other heads of government are there. It’s going to be highly well represented event. So it’s a very important occasion. India I think should be present and should profile itself as a world leader. This should not be based on bilateral issues.
First of all, Queen is not coming because of very different reasons and it has been very clearly clarified by the British government and the Prince of Wales is representing the Queen. So there is no boycott by the Queen and that's very clear. Second thing human rights lobby groups have been campaigning against Sri Lanka for long at the behest of Tamil separatists lobbies who are upset with Sri Lanka for defeating LTTE resoundingly. Human rights violation takes place in every country in the world. We have our share of it and we are making effort to correct them. All the governments in the Commonwealth had decided unanimously that the Commonwealth Summit will be held in Sri Lanka, so there is no boycott. Isolation will happen to those who do not participate not other way round.
You're saying that, yet you are admitting there have been human rights violations. Why is it that the world still believes that Sri Lanka won the war against the LTTE yet it is still not winning the peace? It hasn't addressed the human rights concerns that continued for all these years.
We are looking at those concerns...we have our internal inquiry for that. Issue is that these are propaganda done by groups some in Western countries, some in Tamil Nadu who are upset that LTTE is no more and this campaign will continue.
But why not address human rights concerns? There is Shock in India over photos of Prabhakaran’s son.
No that's not true. We are only saying those who come up with some allegations on Sri Lanka continue to do so and they are LTTE supporters. I just said that Sri Lanka has human rights issues to address and we are keen to address them. We are like any other country in the world. Human rights violations are there everywhere. We make efforts to correct ourselves. We have domestic mechanisms for that. We get international support but we are against international inquiry into our situations. We can do our own internal investigations. We are a democracy we have our own institutions and we do the right things.
How big a blow will it be if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh doesn't come?
Question is lowest for whom. If the prime minister of India does not come for this important meeting then for whom the consequences will be is the question that one has to think.
Sri Lanka won't be affected?
I would say that those who would be affected would be many. Sri Lanka would be hosting the conference and we are happy at the level of participation that we have. It will be those who do not participate who will be isolated not those who are participating.
Have you got any kind of indication from the Indian government that the Indian prime minister will attend?
It's a decision by the Indian government. We respect India and it is our good friend and our expectations is that the Indian government will take the right decision at the right time.