News / Asia

    India PM to skip Sri Lanka Summit Amid War Crimes Row

    FILE - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
    FILE - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
    Reuters
    Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will skip a meeting of Commonwealth leaders in Sri Lanka this week marred by long-running accusations that Colombo has failed to resolve the issue of war crimes against minority Tamils.

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already said he would boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that Sri Lanka is hosting from Nov. 15 to 17.

    Harper said last month he was disturbed by continuing reports of intimidation and incarceration of political leaders and journalists, the harassment of minorities, reported disappearances and accusations of extra-judicial killings.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will attend, but will demand an investigation into the accusations.

    The Sri Lankan government, which defeated the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, faces increasing pressure from the international community to try those responsible for rights abuses during a nearly three-decade-long civil war.

    Singh has written to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to say he will be unable to attend and Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid will take his place instead, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said, but gave no reason for the change.

    “From time to time the prime minister is required to be here and he is unable to visit,” Khurshid told reporters. “It should not be looked at as something that, if such a decision has been taken, will affect India-Sri Lanka relations.”

    At home, Singh's move is also being seen as bowing to pressure from India's own large Tamil population, with an eye to a general election that must be held by next May.

    Colombo had not officially been informed of Singh's decision, Karunatilaka Amunugama, the secretary of Sri Lanka's external affairs ministry, told Reuters.

    Foreign politician detained

    In a separate development, Sri Lankan authorities on Sunday detained, and impounded the passports of, two lawmakers from  Australia and New Zealand who had visited former war zones in the country's north.

    The pair were due to address a news conference organized by the Tamil National Alliance, the former political proxy of the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

    Authorities say the two politicians were detained because they had traveled on tourist visas. They were later released.

    “One has already left the country and the other one will leave tomorrow morning,” Chulananda Perera, controller of the immigration and emigration department, told Reuters.

    Sunday's detention follows the questioning last week of two media activists from Australia representing the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Immigration officials found they had traveled on tourist visas to attend a media workshop.

    Sri Lanka also denied last week that it had refused to give visas to a delegation from an international human rights group, saying permission had not been sought for the visitors.

    Sri Lanka, an island of 21 million people just off India's southern tip, has become a visible front in the competition between India and China, where mutual suspicion and commercial ambition have led to a race for construction projects.

    Critics in India slammed Singh's decision as opening the way for China, which helps fund the island nation's military and infrastructure projects, to extend its influence.

    “Now we are vacating our backyard for the Chinese to rebuild all of a booming post-war Sri Lanka,” influential columnist and editor Shekhar Gupta wrote in the Indian Express newspaper.

    The cancelation has reawakened questions about Singh's legacy after he steps down - as he is expected to do - following the 2014 vote. His ruling Congress party has been weakened by a string of corruption scandals, high inflation and stuttering growth after nine years in power.

    Major roadblocks have stalled Singh's landmark foreign policy initiatives, such as a 2008 atomic energy deal with the United States that lifted India out of diplomatic isolation over its nuclear program.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora