| by N.S.Venkataraman
( November 13, 2013, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Many people in India are surprised that Dr. Manmohan Singh has decided not to attend CHOGM at Colombo but only send a delegation headed by the Foreign Minister. While many people know that in recent times, Dr. Singh has not been able to take any firm decision and often bow to the pressure of coalition partners in the government , still many thought that he would stand firm and attend the meeting at Colombo, particularly in view of its importance and the fact that Sri Lanka is a neighbouring country with long traditional relationship.
The spokesman of the government of India has given a laboured explanation that ever since India joined the commonwealth, no Indian Prime Minister has attended more than two summits staged abroad. Further, it was said no CHOGM had seen cent percent participation of all the invited heads of government. Many are not willing to buy these explanations , as the real reason for Dr. Singh’s decision is obvious. Everyone knows about the clamour of the political parties in Tamil Nadu that India should not participate in CHOGM and some even have gone to the extent of voicing view that Sri Lanka should be expelled from commonwealth. Dr. Singh is unable to convince the political outfits in Tamil Nadu.
It was earlier said that Dr. Singh was very keen to attend the meeting since his absence would send wrong signals. However, the fact is that he has not been able to assert himself. Many in India have now started counting India’s loss due to such stand taken by Dr. Singh with regard to CHOGM.
A large section think that by Dr. Singh taking a decision not to attend the meeting, he has snubbed Sri Lanka. While Sri Lanka may not react immediately, certainly it may not take this snub lightly and this may cause problem for India in maintaining smooth neighbourly relationship with Sri Lanka in the long run. Dr. Singh has not been able to explain to the political parties in Tamil Nadu that his attending CHOGM would be necessary, to ensure that Sri Lanka would continue to implement its welfare policies for the minority Tamil population in Sri Lanka. By creating sour relationship with Sri Lankan government , India will not be able to continue dialogue with Sri Lankan government on the Tamil issue in a healthy manner.
India already has problems on its borders with Pakistan and China and the relations with Bangladesh is often unsteady due to influx of people from Bangladesh to India and issues in sharing river water. Certainly, India will not like to have more problem with the neighbours.
Obviously, Dr. Singh and his government would know all these implications. But, somehow , vote bank politics has become more important for the government ; much more than the bilateral relationship with neighbouring countries.
One only hopes that the Sri Lankan government would react for the situation in a matured and pragmatic way and perhaps show understanding of Dr. Singh’s compulsions and helplessness. Maintaining good relationships with India is as much important for Sri Lanka , as it is for India to maintain good relationship with Sri Lanka. In its frustration with India’s approach , Sri Lankan government should not play into the hands of other countries who may try to get a foothold in Sri Lanka at the cost of India.
It would also be appropriate for Sri Lankan government to engage with Government of India to find an arrangement for amicable relationships in the case of Indian and Sri Lankan fisher men.
Sri Lanka has the task and opportunity to build itself industrially and economically and it has the potential to do so. It would be well advised to go with the business of CHOGM in a smooth manner whether Dr. Singh participates or not and not to blow the issues out of proportion.