“The Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam’s demand for declaring the civilian deaths in the Sri Lankan conflict as genocide is an overstatement, especially in the context of this weekend’s vote at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the U.S.-sponsored resolution on the island nation’s human rights record, well-placed official sources told The Hindu.
The broad contours of India’s thinking on the civilian deaths, political estrangement and withdrawal of the army from the previously conflict-ridden areas emerged three days ago. Official sources here said India had taken a tough stand on Sri Lanka’s handling of the post-war situation.
However, neither India nor other countries intended to term as genocide the civilian deaths that occurred in the last phase of the war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that ended in 2009. India will get another opportunity to put forward its stand in the run-up to the voting. Despite the persistent demand by parties like the DMK that India spell out its stand, the government has repeatedly said it will take a call, depending on the wording.
At the formal adoption of a periodic review of Sri Lanka’s human rights record at the HRC working group in Geneva on Thursday, India appreciated Colombo’s recognition of the need for implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s Report and promoting the trilingual policy. It also expressed the hope that the Sri Lankan government would speedily withdraw the armed forces from the northern parts and keep its promise to hold elections in the Northern Province within six months.
But sources said this was the normal diplomatic discourse practised at the U.N. The substance was in the middle of the statement. The sources said: “We also expressed our hope that the investigations of allegations of human rights violations and loss of civilian lives will be independent and credible and said we look forward to speedy resolution of the residual issues pertaining to the resettlement and rehabilitation process, where welcome progress has been made.”
The statement also made it clear India’s impatience with Sri Lanka’s inability to address many of the issues since the last periodic review was held in November last. The silver lining, according to India, was in rehabilitation of the war-affected persons. This was an area where India would continue to provide whole-hearted support to Sri Lanka, the statement said.
The sources also sought to dispel the impression that any Indian support to the resolution was because the U.S. had piloted it. “These UPR discussions at the HRC, which have a four-year cycle and are in the nature of a peer review, are held independently of the expressed intention of the U.S. to table a draft resolution on Sri Lanka in the ongoing session…”
While all U.N. members are free to speak at the review, only HRC members can vote. Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran spoke against the resolution which they said amounted to singling out a particular country for opprobrium. But many of the heavyweights, especially Russia and China, are not on the HRC this time.
As a result, the resolution that uses a strong language against Sri Lanka has a strong chance to sail through. Last time too, India sided with a U.S.-piloted resolution that won more votes, though Russia, China, Pakistan and many Asian countries sided with Sri Lanka. This time, the sources said, there were not many countries from Asia on the HRC, where positions are held in rotation. Japan could soften its stand as Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited it recently