I wanted my PM to go there first, says Khurshid

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Colombo, November 16:  External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on 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.

Mr. Khurshid was answering questions on the historic visit Mr. Cameron made to Jaffna after the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth summit.

There were plans for Dr. Singh to visit Jaffna before going to Colombo but it was nixed by the strong opposition from Tamil Nadu. Northern province Chief Minister C.S. Wigneswaran had invited the Prime Minister to visit Jaffna. Mr. Khurshid said he did not want to blame anyone.

Mr. 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,” he said.

“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 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 could 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.”

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