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Hillary to visit Chennai, but mum’s the word on Sri Lanka

Written by kumaran   // July 13, 2011   // Comments Off

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) listens to a reporter's question during a press conference at the government house in Bangkok, on July 21, 2009. Clinton arrived in Thailand for a regional security conference focusing on the North Korean nuclear threat, Myanmar's rights record and terrorism. Following a meeting with Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in Bangkok, Clinton is expected to travel to Phuket on July 22 for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum (ARF), which groups the regional bloc with the United States and 16 other countries. AFP PHOTO/POOL/SAKCHAI LALIT (Photo credit should read SAKCHAI LALIT/AFP/Getty Images)

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will make her first-ever visit to Chennai after co-chairing the second US-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi on July 19 with her counterpart External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, will not discuss any foreign policy issues while in the Tamil Nadu state, specifically Sri Lanka, senior diplomatic sources have said.

The island-nation, incidentally, is under tremendous US pressure to allow for a United Nations-led investigation into alleged war crimes during the final months of the conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

These sources, briefing on the agenda and priorities of the Strategic Dialogue as well as Clinton’s maiden trip to Chennai — the first by a US secretary of state — said the visit would be “strictly non-governmental” where Clinton would meet with leaders of civil society and policy wonks on development issues, mainly from nongovernmental organisations, and also meet representatives of leading American companies that are situated in this manufacturing hub, like Caterpillar and Ford, and business groups.

For years Ford has maintained a automobile manufacturing plant in Chennai and the Figo built there now serves not only the domestic market but also the export market.

“All of the discussions on foreign policy will be in Delhi where we will discuss the neighbourhood as a whole when the foreign minister meets with her,” the sources noted.

In recent weeks, the Obama administration has minced no words in slamming the Sri Lankan government for not moving ahead with its commitment to investigate the alleged war crimes. Only last month, the state department, when asked for the US view regarding accountability in Sri Lanka, had said, “As we have stated before, the US supports a full, credible and independent investigation of alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and accountability for such violations.”

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