Indrani BagchiIndrani Bagchi,
India will oppose a Commonwealth report that seeks to establish a monitoring group for member countries on human rights, democracy and rule of law. At the Commonwealth summit in Perth this week, India is working the diplomatic levers to make the case that such groups are beyond the mandate of the 54-nation grouping. This might put India in the direct path of advocacy by western Commonwealth nations UK, Canada and Australia.
The 11-member eminent persons group drawn from civil society in various countries has put out 106 recommendations in its report, most of which India would be happy to accept. The group was set up after the last summit in Port of Spain in 2009 and the report may be accepted at this week’s CHOGM.
India, sources said, opposes the appointment of another human rights commissioner, given that the UN’s Human Rights Council is a functioning body with a more far-reaching mandate. India comes up for its periodic review next year at the Council, where, among other things, India will be fighting attempts to put caste under racism.
India is likely to get support from almost all South Asian states, as well as some African nations. This appointment may be used by the west to beat Sri Lanka with, fear Indians. Sri Lanka is the host for the 2013 CHOGM and a human rights campaign against it is the last thing it wants. India too doesn’t want Sri Lanka to have to go down that path.
On democracy promotion and rule of law advocacy, India believes that though it is a staunch practitioner of these values, it is equally opposed to outside imposition of these values on countries. The battle is fairly joined with the western countries pushing that there should be a fight against ills like forced and early marriage.
The one issue which has flummoxed Indian diplomats is a recommendation that countries should be penalized or criticized for discriminating against gays and lesbians. While India has moved out of that group with the decriminalization of homosexuality, almost 40 countries in the Commonwealth declare homosexuality to be a crime. This issue, many feel, is likely to cloud the larger issues at the summit.
Times of India