The absence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterparts from Canada and Mauritius has cast a shadow over the three-day CHOGM summit that begins on Friday amid allegations of human rights violations against the Tamils in Sri Lanka's war against the LTTE.
Unfazed by repeated references to the "war crimes" and the demand for an independent investigation into them, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has picked on the opportunity to host the summit of the 53-nation grouping to showcase the peace in the last four years after the elimination of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The President even sought to downplay the absence of Singh at a CHOGM-eve press conference saying he was satisfied with the presence of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who is representing India at the summit after the Prime Minister backed out in the wake of strong sentiments in Tamil Nadu.
Rajapaksa noted that the Indian Prime Minister had not attended the previous 2011 summit in Perth, Australia, an explanation that was also given by Indian officials when Singh decided not to attend the summit after the Congress Core Group's decision against his going to Colombo.
Political parties in Tamil Nadu had stepped up pressure against Singh's participation and the Tamil Nadu assembly even passed two resolutions demanding a total boycott by India.
But Khurshid, who is representing India at the summit, has justified his presence saying there was need for India to remain engaged with Sri Lanka in the interest of Tamils of the island and also in the enlightened national interest of India.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Mauritian counterpart Navin Chandra Ramgoolam also chose to keep away from the summit citing the "poor" human rights record of Sri Lanka while British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will attend the summit to express his country's reservations on the issue.
Attending the summit does not mean Britain endorses all that had happened in Sri Lanka, he had said justifying his decision to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
India, with 60 per cent of the 2.3 billion population of the grouping, has a key say in the Commonwealth, and along with big democracies like Britain, Australia and Canada, it can influence the way it moves forward.
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