The US has circulated a draft resolution in Geneva against Sri Lanka on Thursday, which militates against India’s consistent stand of non-interference in internal affairs of countries. The draft resolution could complicate New Delhi’s efforts to honour the sentiments of Tamil MPs while protecting ties with Colombo.
Reacting to angry demands on Thursday for action against Colombo in view of fresh “evidence” of war crimes against Tamils in Lanka, foreign minister Salman Khurshid told Parliament, “We will take into account the views of the MPs, the developments on the ground, what Sri Lankan government has done and what the other nations have said” before taking a decision on the resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.”
Khurshid, like PM Manmohan Singh on Wednesday, refused to commit India’s decision until seeing the final text of the resolution. Separately, Ghulam Nabi Azad told members of Tamil Eelam Supporters Organization (TESO) that India would back a resolution that is non-intrusive.
But balancing the imperative to mollify the anti-Sri Lanka opinion with the need to stick to principled stand to prevent outside powers from interfering in the sovereign affairs of nations was looking much more difficult after the US circulated the draft of its resolution for UNHRC. Scheduled to be voted on March 21, the American resolution has several intrusive provisions.
The redeeming feature that it is only the first draft, which may be modified before the vote. India is also pushing the Lankan government to directly deal with the US with their own points of view. Diplomats say the Lankans are yet to hold elaborate talks with Washington. India will be anxiously awaiting Lankans’ negotiations with Americans and its outcome.
New Delhi has reasons to be uncomfortable with the US resolution. First, India has had problems with country-specific resolutions, though after voting against Lanka last year, that objection no longer holds water.
Second, observing that Sri Lanka had failed to “honour its public commitments, including on devolution of political authority”, the resolution backs the “establishment of a truth-seeking mechanism as an integral part of a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to transitional justice”.
The high commissioner for human rights has demanded an “independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law”, and the resolution asks Lanka to implement it. This would open up external intrusion into Lanka’s internal affairs. India has traditionally stayed away from such recommendations as they contradict sovereignty provisions that New Delhi guards jealously. In its explanation of vote last year, the ministry of foreign affairs (MEA) had observed, “we also underline that any assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights or visits of UN Special Procedures should be in consultation with and with the concurrence of the Sri Lankan Government.... A democratic country like Sri Lanka has to be provided time and space to achieve the objectives of reconciliation and peace.”
Third, the resolution asks Sri Lanka to “provide unfettered access to Special Rapporteurs” and the high commissioner for human rights to push this through with “technical assistance” which, diplomats say is a euphemism for intrusive procedures in Lanka. India had welcomed the LLRC report and has pushed for the implementation of 13th Amendment Plus which has been promised by Rajapakse to PM Singh. In the past year, there has been no implementation.
The Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has been asked to produce another interim report on Lanka’s compliance during subsequent HRC sessions. (The Times of India)
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