Overcoming its dithering,India today voted for a US-sponsored resolution at the UN’s top human rights body censuring Sri Lanka for alleged rights violations during the war against LTTE.
India had initially shown reluctance to vote on a nation-specific resolution but had to change its stand under severe pressure from political parties in Tamil Nadu,particularly DMK which had threatened to pull out its ministers from the UPA government at the Centre.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later said: ”We had to weigh the pros and cons. What we did was in line with our stand.”
With 24 votes for,15 against and 8 abstentions,the 47-member UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted the resolution which noted with concern that an internal inquiry report in Sri Lanka does not adequately address “serious allegations” of violations of international law.
It also asked Colombo to present as expeditiously as possible a comprehensive action plan detailing the steps to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and to address the alleged violations of international law.
Sources said India decided to vote after persuading the resolution-sponsor to make two changes in the draft so that it became “non-intrusive” and contribute to political reconciliation process in the island.
India did not participate in the debate but voted with countries like Austria,Belgium,Czech Republic,Italy,Spain,Switzerland,Uruguay and the US.
Many of India’s neighbours,including China,Bangladesh and Maldives,and Russia,Kuwait,Saudi Arabia and Indonesia were among the countries that voted against the resolution which asked the Sri Lankan government to implement the constructive recommendations of the LLRC.
In a veiled attack on India,Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris,who was present during the voting,said the most distressing feature is the reality that voting at the Council is now determined not by the merits of a particular issue but by strategic alliances and domestic political issues in other countries,an apparent reference to the politics in Tamil Nadu.
However,Indian sources pointed out that it was successful in bringing about the change in the resolution to add a paragraph which said “recalling Council resolutions 5/1 and 5/2 on institution building of the Human Rights Council” to give a context.
The other change was in reference to the wording of the last para of the resolution which speaks of providing advice and technical assistance on implementing the steps suggested in the resolution.
The amendment makes it clear that the advice and technical assistance would be provided “in consultation with and with the concurrence of” the government of Sri Lanka that made the resolution “non-intrusive”,Indian sources said.
Tabling the resolution,the US said Colombo had been given three years to hold its own investigations into the allegations of serious violations but given the lack of action it was appropriate that the Council be pushed to do so.
“An enduring peace will be unsustainable without meaningful steps to foster national reconciliation and accountability,” US envoy Eileen Donahoe said.
She also said that India’s backing was very helpful because it was a close neighbour. “We see India’s support as nothing but positive.”
Sri Lankan Special Envoy on Human Rights,Mahinda Samarasinghe,rejected the resolution,saying it was “mis-conceived,unwarranted and ill-timed” embodying several “harmful” elements that violate important principles having adverse ramifications to his country and to others.
Warning that the resolution would be counter-productive,Samarasinghe said it would undermine the principle of non-interference in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of the country,a point backed by China and Russia.
On its part,the EU claimed that Sri Lanka had been threatening its opponents at home and here of reprisals and called for its stoppage.
The resolution’s opponents at the Council stated that the timing was not correct,adding that only three years had passed after the LTTE war in Sri Lanka ended and it needed more time to continue with its domestic process.
They said the Council was being politicised by this resolution and it would set a bad precedent that could affect other developing countries.
Maldives stressed that as one of Sri Lanka’s closest neighbours it had been very closely affected by the violence in the island nation,and vouched for steps Colombo had been taking.
Both China and Russia spoke strongly against the adverse consequences of such a resolution and interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state.