Feature Article

Indian PM to skip SL Independence Day Celebrations

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 09 January 2008, 10:43 GMT]
As Sri Lanka increased its military offensives against Tamils in the North following the abrogation of the ceasefire, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday virtually confirmed that he would not visit Colombo next month for the 60th anniversary of Sri Lanka's Independence Day on February 4. "I have not made up my mind", he said when asked whether he would be traveling to Sri Lanka next month during an interaction with journalists in New Delhi. According to reports in the Indian media, the immediate provocation for India's ire was Sri Lanka’s decision to abrogate the six year CFA without seeking to negotiate with the Tamils.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Dr. Manmohan Singh was talking to journalists on the sidelines of a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Indian Presidential Office.

Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama had informed Sri Lankan Parliament that Manmohan Singh would be the chief guest at the ceremony, and the Indian High Commissioner had sought to spare him blushes by saying that the dates proposed by the Sri Lankan side were not suitable. The Indian prime minister was more candid and his public declaration of his indecision on the visit was a clear signal that he strongly disapproved of the Mahinda Rajapaksa's government's escalation of hostilities.

His response has been described by the India media as "revealing since the prime minister's visits are hardly off the cuff business and being part of Sri Lanka's Independence Day celebrations would be planned well in advance."

Indian media reports attributed The decision to the "strong pressure on the Indian foreign policy establishment from Tamil Nadu, and the fear that Tamils in Sri Lanka might once again become a factor in domestic politics." The Indian government has been under increasing pressure from all quarters, specially the Dravida Munneatta Kazhakam (DMK), the Congress party's major southern ally. There were also spontaneous protests against the prime minister's proposed visit from pro-Tamil nationalist groups in Tamilnadu.

Another major ally, the Communist Party of India (CPI) has also been vociferous in condemning the Sri Lankan government's decision to pull out of the almost six-year-old ceasefire with the LTTE. CPI National Secretary D Raja on Saturday had said that "military solutions cannot defuse tension" in the island nation. He had noted that the Withdrawal of ceasefire was tantamount to declaration of war and hence the step was "not proper" and deserved to be "condemned in the strongest terms."

Reportedly, there was "a sense of relief" even in Congress circles that the PM was not likely to travel to Sri Lanka. They saw it as an apt decision because if the controversy snowballed, the party would have to face "belligerent allies" who were concerned about the genocidal persecution of the Tamils in the island.



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