A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
The US sponsored resolution against neighbouring Sri Lanka has become a discussion point in India. Debates in the parliament and in the media are about whether India should support or oppose the resolution. Government of India has not decided yet, though some politicians, including the main opposition party, the BJP, have been demanding that India should support the resolution. Everyone understands that these calls, to support the resolution, however is with the narrow view of gaining a few more votes from Tamil Nadu and has nothing to do with respect of justice and reparation.
Mr. D. Raja, a politician from Tamil Nadu who participated in a televised debate yesterday on the issue does not even know the name of the body in which the resolution is mooted at the UN. Yet he spared no breath to yell at other participants and the moderator, ‘that India must support the resolution, even if the government does not know what its content is.’ Raja behaved as if he expects the Government of India to act like his party cadres, to agree whatever the politburo decides.
For those who are yet to read the text of the resolution as it stands now, the same is available here. Said that, the government is fully aware of the resolution, its contents, and its wording is one of the concerns for the government.
Irrespective of India’s position on the resolution, it will succeed at the UN. Abstention or opposition would place the country in the bad side of history, that the Government of Sri Lanka itself is not actively contesting it, domestically and internationally. The resolution would however make no difference to situation in Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka has today the proven record of accomplishments of a rouge regime and is least bothered about what the international community speaks or thinks about it.
The incumbent government in Sri Lanka inherited a country that has a devastated justice system. Its public institutions had already lost independence and efficacy, which President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has used well in pursuit of ‘happiness’ at the Temple Trees and all those who are well connected with the Rajapaksa family. The latest victim is the former Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, who herself was the product of a fallen and deeply corrupt legal order. A UN resolution will be the last worry for Rajapaksa, that his family has consolidated power in the country.
The myopic view of the world Tamil forum also has reasonably helped in the process of the Rajapaksa family considering power. For instance when the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka was illegally removed from office, which the government termed impeachment, there was no Tamil voice that joined the protest. The Tamil lobby group failed to realise the magnitude of the action, that Mahinda and his family was consolidating absolute power in the country by dismissing the Chief Justice as if the judge was of the same footing like an average government employee that could be dismissed at wish of the executive president. The principal problem that Sri Lanka suffers is the executive presidency that makes the president, the most powerful, and the least accountable person, in the entire country. A resolution cannot resolve this, and truly, Mahinda might least bother.
Regarding the proposed resolution, India is part of the international politics that will play out in the coming days at the UN. The country and its permanent mission in Geneva will have tough time, negotiating the wording of the resolution, since it is in a precarious position, that New Delhi certainly will not want to be contributing into an international resolution that urges a member state to undertake specific activities.
Understandably, New Delhi would find it difficult to reconcile with a resolution that urges one of India’s neighbour that has an elected government to collaborate with the UN special procedure mechanisms. This includes extending open invitations to the UN Special Rapporteurs. India is infamous for refusing Rapporteurs official entry into the country. Neither could New Delhi easily agree to a resolution that requests a neighbour to cooperate with the UN on technical assistance on reconciliation and accountability.
Sri Lanka’s contest regarding the character of Ealem War IV, that the government forces were fighting ‘terrorists’, resonates well with India’s position in Jammu and Kashmir as well as in Manipur. The proposed resolution is a double-edged weapon that could be used as ‘precedence’ in international law against India. The fact that accountability also involves the possibility of the political as well as military leadership later tried for crimes, would not go well in New Delhi. This also exposes the lack of honesty in the support that some members of the opposition political parties in India extends to the proposed resolution, that none of them are so far concerned about similar human rights abuses committed in India, definitely not within the same short span. It is an undeniable fact that India is in a perpetual war with its own people in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir.
India is weighing these possibilities and in the process busy in intense diplomatic exercises in Europe and New York to soften the wording of the proposed resolution. It is here that India is trying to play its undeniable regional power politics and once again claiming its legitimate claim in international arena as a global power.
Many western nations have a lot at stake with their relationships with India and China, to such extent that some of their economies entirely depend on business with these two countries, which they would not want to sacrifice at the altar of the Sri Lankan resolution, a state that is of least interest to many.
On an equal footing, while New Delhi would not want yet another rouge state in its neighbourhood, which is on all fronts an unwelcome scenario, the country would not want an international intervention, ‘sponsored’ by the ‘west’ in its backyard without it being ‘adequately’ consulted, a matter of India’s pride. Deciding on the proposed resolution hence is not a yes or no job at New Delhi. In all sense, the resolution is India’s nemesis in international politics.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.