MARCH 21, 2021
NEW DELHI: As the UNHRC prepares for a vote on Tuesday on a resolution meant to hold Sri Lankan authorities accountable for human rights violations, the Indian government is mulling whether to support or oppose the resolution.
Despite repeated calls for support from the island nation, including a phone call to PM Narendra Modi by Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, India has kept the neighbour in suspense and the final decision is expected to be conveyed to India’s permanent mission in Geneva only on Tuesday morning. India itself has been at the receiving end of commentary from the UNHRC and committees under it on issues ranging from Article 370 to arrested defence middleman Christian Michel.
While the government has the option to abstain, it won’t be an easy decision with China, Pakistan and Russia likely to vote against the resolution. With elections in Tamil Nadu next month, the decision to support Sri Lanka can be testing for the government. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram appealed to the government on Saturday to call out Sri Lanka for rights violations by voting in favour of the resolution and show solidarity with the Tamil people. DMK president M K Stalin too urged Modi on Sunday to not take a stand against the resolution.
Even as it continues to remind Sri Lanka of its commitment to address the aspirations of Tamils, including through meaningful devolution, India is aware that voting in favour, or perhaps even abstaining during voting on the resolution that calls for Lankan officials to be held accountable for war crimes can further drive the strategically located Indian Ocean country into the arms of China, especially with the Rajapaksas, who are known for their close ties with China, in power.
Significantly, as reports from Islamabad confirmed on Sunday, Pakistan has decided to vote against the resolution after a clarification from Lankan authorities that they were not going to ban burqa in Sri Lanka. Pakistan had opposed the proposed ban saying it would “further strengthen wider apprehensions about fundamental human rights of minorities in the country’’.
A source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the safest option for India would be to abstain under the circumstances which the government has been doing in any case on country specific resolutions.
India believes its “consistent’’ policy on Sri Lanka, as it said at the Council last month, rests on support for Sri Lanka’s unity and territorial integrity and also on an abiding commitment to aspirations of the Tamils of Sri Lanka for equality, justice, peace and dignity.