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Issue No.: 559 | January 2014

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting - 2013 (CHOGM)

Suresh C. Sharma
Foreign affairs are the prerogative of the Centre and the Government of India should act in the interests of national security and economy.

Fifty four members of the Commonwealth were scheduled to meet in Colombo on 15-17 November 2013. The meeting took place under the shadow of allegations of war crimes by the Sri Lankan armed forces. Out of 53 members, only 27 heads of the government attended and 22 countries were represented by ambassadors or ministers. Three countries did not participate.

David Cameron, Prime Minister of UK, attended and visited the Tamil area in the North. About 300 families told him of the missing family members. They are unable to go to their homes from the present camps. Cameron called for independent investigation of the alleged war crimes. If the investigation was not completed by March 2014, he would push for a UN led enquiry. The Defence Secretary ofSri Lanka said that Russia, China and Cuba would not support an enquiry. He accused the UK Government of behaving as if Sri Lanka was still a British colony. India should take note of Sri Lanka’s reliance on China.

A resolution was passed in the Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu calling on the Government of India to boycott CHOGM. The Central Government is ever ready to follow the advice of state governments. Earlier, the West Bengal Government had vetoed any agreement with Dacca on sharing river waters. India did not boycott the summit but the Foreign Minister attended in place ofthe Prime Minister. We are in dark about his efforts to help the Tamil population. Foreign affairs are the prerogative of the Centre and the Government of India should act in the interests of national security and economy. The vote bank policy clouds the process of clarity. In due course, Arunachal may object to any deal with China due to China’s claim of sovereignty over Arunachal and Punjab may revive memories of 1947 to boycott Pakistan. India could be completely isolated in South Asia.

On one hand, India has given considerable aid to Sri Lanka to build railways, hospitals and refugee camps an on the other hand, India did not respond to Sri Lanka’s approach for building up Hambantota port. China stepped in to build it. This is part of the string of pearls around India. China is now building another container port terminal at Colombo. Two officers from Sri Lanka were not allowed to continue their studies at Staff College and the Tamil Nadu Government is objecting to provide training to Sri Lanka naval officers. Sri Lanka’s natural choice would be to obtain training help from Pakistan. Closer relations of Sri Lanka with China and Pakistan will hurt India’s strategic interests.

BRIG. SURESH C. SHARMA (retd) is adviser to the telecom industry, and a 
memberof the Advisory Board of FreedomFirst. 





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