Khurshid justifies India's presence at CHOGM, says 'concerned about Tamils'

KhurshidAccording to Khurshid, though he was in Colombo essentially for attending a multilateral conference and not a bilateral engagement, he would have the opportunity on the sidelines of the summit to convey India's views.

Brushing aside the demand of political parties in Tamil Nadu for a total boycott, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid arrived in Colombo on Wednesday to attend the CHOGM summit this week saying India remains committed to the welfare of the ethnic Tamils of Sri Lanka and that "We have to remain engaged" in "enlightened national interest".

Khurshid was given a warm welcome on arrival accompanied by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and other officials in a special IAF aircraft.

According to Khurshid, though he was in Colombo essentially for attending a multilateral conference and not a bilateral engagement, he would have the opportunity on the sidelines of the summit to convey India's views and concerns to the Sri Lankan government on issues like devolution of more powers to Tamils and attacks on Indian fishermen in the seas off Sri Lanka.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was planning to attend the three-day summit beginning on Friday, was last week forced to call off the plans in the wake of competitive politics in Tamil Nadu and fear of isolation of Congress party in the state ahead of next year's elections.

Against the backdrop of the unanimous resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Tuesday night, the second in recent times demanding total boycott of CHOGM by India, Khurshid said he was "perplexed" by the demand.

"We are doing a lot for Tamils of northern areas in Sri Lanka. We are involved in a big project of building 15,000 houses (in the war-ravaged areas), laying roads and erecting infrastructure. Nobody is saying you should not be doing this," Khurshid said.

"If we are not here, how can we be doing these things. Therefore, I am perplexed by the people who say we should not go to Sri Lanka. I find this logic somewhat...My job is to look into and represent in India's enlightened national interest," he told reporters accompanying him on board the special aircraft that took him on a five-day visit to Sri Lanka.

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