Salman Khurshid regrets PM Singh's absence in Jaffna

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Colombo, Nov 16: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid Friday expressed regret that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could not visit Jaffna, a feat undertaken by his British counterpart David Cameron, who became the first head of government to visit the war-torn northern province in Sri Lanka since its independence in 1948.

"Is it not sad? Who is to blame? I wanted my PM to go there first. I was the second Indian foreign minister to go there (after the war). But who do I blame for it. I am only disappointed that I could not take the prime minister to an area where we are building 50,000 houses. We can't show him this and the roads and projects that we are building (in Jaffna)," he told reporters.

The foreign minister, however, did not blame anybody for the PM's absence

Khurshid was answering questions on the historic visit Cameron made to Jaffna after the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth summit in a public relations disaster for Sri Lanka.

There were plans for Prime Minister Singh to visit Jaffna before going to Colombo for the summit but it was nixed by the strong opposition from Tamil Nadu. Northern province Chief Minister C S Wigneswaran had invited Singh to visit Jaffna.

Khurshid said he did not want to blame anyone.

"Let the people judge whether their (those objecting PM's visit to Sri Lanka) strategy has brought benefit. My objective is to get the Sri Lankans to get back on their feet and have self confidence," he said.

Asked about the divisions within the Congress party and the government on this issue, Khurshid said it was not a division as only different view points have been expressed.

While the Prime Minister did not visit Sri Lanka, it was decided that there will be no boycott because India has to remain engaged with Sri Lanka.

"I think to say that our party and the Cabinet was divided is unfair to them. Everything was taken into account-- short term and long term issues -- and a view prevailed that we should not boycott but we should remain engaged (with Sri Lanka)," he said.

Khurshid also made it clear that India has conveyed to Sri Lanka its concerns over the alleged gross abuse of human rights during the war against the LTTE and for not properly addressing the concerns of the Tamils on the issue.

"Our stand has been exactly that there has to be truth and reconciliation must go on. If you want to move and build a society, then you need to address their (Tamils') concerns.

These are very serious concerns and they will have to address them within Sri Lanka not in New Delhi or Washington," he said when asked about India's stand on the allegations of war crimes during the campaign against LTTE.

Countries like Britain and Canada have openly expressed their reservations over Sri Lanka rejecting demands for independent probe into these allegations, an issue that has clouded the ongoing Commonwealth summit.

The minister said India can only express its concerns while it was for the people and government of Sri Lanka to address them.

"Our job is to help them and incentivise them to do it.

It is a sovereign government and it is their responsibility.

We are impacted and affected (by events here) and the Sri Lankan government has to address them because it helps both of us," he said.

"If we can be of some help, we will be of help," he said.

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid attends the Commonwealth foreign ministers meeting on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid attends the Commonwealth foreign ministers meeting on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. The palm-flecked island nation of Sri Lanka plays host this week to leaders from dozens of Commonwealth nations at a summit it hopes will generate enough good will and photo opportunities to eclipse three decades of grim history, massive civilian deaths, persistent media harassment and gangster-style politics. The leaders of Canada and India are boycotting the summit.

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, second from left, looks out from a window as he arrives for the Commonwealth foreign ministers meeting on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. The palm-flecked island nation of Sri Lanka plays host this week to leaders from dozens of Commonwealth nations at a summit it hopes will generate enough good will and photo opportunities to eclipse three decades of grim history, massive civilian deaths, persistent media harassment and gangster-style politics. The leaders of Canada and India are boycotting the summit.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, left, talks with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, left, talks with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid during a retreat at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, in Colombo, Sri Lanka.


PTI

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