Congress core group likely to decide on PM's Colombo visit today

( November 8, 2013, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Congress core group will meet this morning to decide whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should attend the commonwealth heads of state meeting in Colombo next week. While the Ministry of External Affairs reportedly wants the PM to visit Colombo, politicians from Tamil Nadu have urged Dr Singh to boycott the meet over Sri Lanka's alleged war crimes against Lankan Tamils.

Politicians from Tamil Nadu, including Dr Singh's own ministers, have said the PM should skip the November 15 meeting in Colombo to respect the Tamil sentiment. Three other union ministers from Tamil Nadu - P Chidambaram, Jayanthi Natarajan and GK Vasan - are reportedly against the PM's visit. Mr Chidambaram, say sources, favoured sending a government representative instead.

Earlier this week, sources said that the Ministry of External Affairs has proposed a visit to Tamil-dominated Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka as a compromise formula. The formula to placate protesting Tamils gained ground as Union Minister ENS Nachiappan, who is an MP from Tamil Nadu, said the PM must visit Jaffna.

"India is spending Rs. 56,000 crore for Tamil resettlement in Lanka, PM must visit to see that it is reaching them. I request that he visits Jaffna and Colombo. People will welcome the visit," said Mr Nachiappan, Minister of State for Commerce.

Sources say the foreign ministry and the PM's office are keen on Dr Singh attending the meeting of the leaders of the Commonwealth nations, as they believe that India should continue engaging with Sri Lanka to push the Tamil cause. Foreign policy experts have also said the PM should attend the Colombo meet because of China's increasing influence in Sri Lanka.

Last month, the Tamil Nadu assembly unanimously adopted a resolution that said India must boycott the session to register its protest against the Sri Lankan government's failure to investigate and punish those who allegedly persecuted the island's ethnic Tamils in the final phase of the civil war that ended in 2009.

Karunanidhi, the leader of regional party DMK, had last week warned the PM of 'consequences' for his Congress party if he went to Colombo, saying "not even a speck of dust should go". The DMK quit Dr Singh's coalition in March, accusing it of failing to take a strong stand on Sri Lanka.

The Prime Minister said recently, "We will consider the sentiments of the Tamil people."

( Courtesy: NDTV)