Indian Prime Minister withdraws from Commonwealth meeting over human rights issues

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has backed out of the 2013 CHOGM in Sri Lanka.

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has backed out of the 2013 CHOGM in Sri Lanka.

Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India will not be in attendance at the Commonwealth summit (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka next week.

The PM wrote to Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa to express his reasons for not attending, which include the issue of human rights.

This comes as a bit of a hit to the reputation of the CHOGM as the Commonwealth’s largest member is India.

Not only is the reputation of the CHOGM at stake but British Prime Minister David Cameron will likely face some criticism. Cameron has voiced his opinion that attending the CHOGM in Sri Lanka “is the right decision,” as reported by The Guardian. Cameron further believes it will send a personal “tough message” in regards to the record of human rights violations.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will travel to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that Charles will be hosting on behalf of the Queen.
The CHOGM is held every two years to allow Commonwealth leaders to meet, consult on Commonwealth and world concerns and to agree on joint plans and initiatives.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will also boycott the meeting. In a statement released in October, the PM made his decision clear:

“When Sri Lanka was selected to host the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Canada was hopeful that the Sri Lankan government would seize the opportunity to improve human rights conditions and take steps towards reconciliation and accountability. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.”

Officials in Sri Lanka deny any of the “exaggerated, unfounded and biased,” charges reports The Guardian.
The last visit by Prince Charles to India was in 2010 as Her Majesty’s representative for the Commonwealth Games. Prior to his 2010 visit, he attended Sri Lanka’s Independence celebration in 1998 and in 2005, shortly after the devastating tsunami.

The Royal couple will arrive this Thursday in Sri Lanka which is also Charles’ 65th Birthday.

“HRH has a strong interest in charitable work, and two of his charities are already working in Sri Lanka on youth entrepreneurship and sustainable development projects, and the CHOGM theme “Growth with Equity; Inclusive Development” has a particular relevance,” Dr. Chris Nonis, Deputy Chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society commented via the Official Government News Portal of Sri Lanka.

Leaders from the Commonwealth have been meeting since 1949. The CHOGM title was not used until 1971 at the Singapore gathering.

Following the formal opening ceremony and Executive Session, leaders have the opportunity to gather in private discussions. The “informal atmosphere, this session allows heads of state to freely and frankly exchange their views on important issues and come to a consensus,” as stated on the CHOGM website.

This is the first time in 24 years that an Asian country is to host the CHOGM.

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