India said on Thursday that it will go with the consensus at the UNHRC on the US-sponsored resolution which proposes to give two more years beyond 2017 to Sri Lanka to fulfil its promises on protecting the interests of Tamils there. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in the Rajya Sabha that India’s approach in the UN Human Rights Council is been guided by the belief that promotion and protection of human rights can be best pursued through constructive and collaborative engagement.
She said a resolution sponsored by the US had come up before the UN in 2015 and a similar resolution has now been brought again in 2017, sponsored by the US and some other countries. “Our aim is the protect the interests of Tamils in Sri Lanka. You can achieve this through two means, by either doing it forcefully or through persuasion with the friendly country,” Swaraj said.
Sharing the concerns and “pain” expressed by the members, she said, “I feel that with the expectation made from Sri Lanka and the commitment made by it, we have decided to go with the emerging consensus.” Responding to a specific question on India’s position on the resolution, she said, “We have decided that we will not break the consensus that is emerging on the issue and will go with it.”
Swaraj said all the previous governments have raised the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils and stopping the human rights violations against them. Not even a single bilateral meeting has taken place where the issue was not raised, she said. “We are not so far satisfied with the resolution of concerns of Sri Lankan Tamils and that is the reason this resolution is again been brought,” she said, adding this was the reason why they are being given two more years to accomplish the task not completed between 2015 and 2017.
“The UN has set a timeline and it is expected that Sri Lanka will fulfil them within that,” the minister said. Responding to questions, Swaraj said, “India’s approach in the UN Human Rights Council has been guided by the firm belief that promotion and protection of human rights can be best pursued through constructive and collaborative engagement.”
Being a co-sponsore of the resolution, Sri Lanka has given an assurance of fulfilling the promises made and of accomplishing the concerns about protection of interests of Tamils in that country within two years, she said. While on one side, there is hope, on the other is its commitment made before the UN, she said.
Earlier, CPI member D Raja raised the issue and sought to know the government’s stand on the issue of protecting the interests of Tamils in Sri Lanka and in ensuring that the neighbouring country stops the violations of human rights and of war crimes. “The anguish with which the members have raised the issue, the government associates itself with the same pain,” Swaraj said.
The Minister, however, pointed out that there have been some positive developments too that have also taken place. “The biggest is that the leader of Tamil party in Sri Lanka is the Leader of Opposition in that country,” she said.
Swaraj said as Sri Lanka is the closest neighbour, India cannot remain untouched by the developments in that country. “India has always supported efforts to preserve Sri Lanka’s character as a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society in which all citizens, including the Sri Lankan Tamil community, can live in equality, safety and harmony, and prosper and fulfil their aspirations within a united Sri Lanka,” she said.
“We hope that with the sagacity and political will of its leadership and the support of its people, Sri Lanka will achieve genuine reconciliation and development,” she said. Listing out some of the concerns listed out in the UN Human Rights Report, she said, these include Sri Lanka government embracing the report of the task force on reconciliation mechanism and present a comprehensive strategy on transitional justice with a time-bound plan.
She said the UN resolution also asks the government of Sri Lanka to implement the commitments welcomed by the Human Rights Council in its resolution and to publically issue instructions to all branches of military, intelligence and police forces that torture, sexual violence and other human rights violations are prohibited and will be investigated and punished.
It also asks the Sri Lankan government to give highest priority to the restitution of all private land that has been occupied by the military and to ending military involvement in commercial and other civilian activities.