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Indian PM joins Commonwealth boycott

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India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has become the second leader to boycott a Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka next week.

This is over the island nation’s human rights record, an Indian official said on Sunday.

Singh joins Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in boycotting the November 15-17 Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting.

Their decision is expected to sharpen focus on the demand by Western nations and rights activists that Sri Lanka account for thousands of civilians who are suspected to have died in the final months of a quarter-century civil war that ended in 2009 when government forces crushed separatist Tamil rebels.

New Delhi will announce Singh’s decision by Monday, the official said Sunday on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to reporters.

India, which has a major interest in the issue because southern India is home to 60 million Tamils, has been urging Sri Lanka’s government to resume negotiations with an ethnic Tamil party on increased local autonomy for Tamils.

Singh bowed to pressure from political parties in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state neighbouring Sri Lanka to boycott the Commonwealth summit on suspicion that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was not doing enough to protect the interests of Tamil minority.

After the war, Rajapaksa promised to allow a greater degree of autonomy in Tamil-majority regions in the north. However, he has been criticised by foreign countries and rights groups for failing to deliver on his promises.

Canadian Prime Minister Harper said last month that Canada was disturbed by ongoing reports of intimidation and incarceration of political leaders and journalists, harassment of minorities, reported disappearances and allegations of extrajudicial killings.