Sushma backs Tamil cause

The Government of India felt anguish and pain over the Sri Lankan military’s alleged war crimes against unarmed Tamils in the 2009 war, said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in an unusually strong observation on the nation’s human rights record.

Ms. Swaraj said India was committed to the protection of the rights of the Tamils in the Island nation, even as the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) appeared set to take up a crucial resolution on the issue on Friday.

“The anguish with which the members have raised the issue [of crimes committed during the war of 2009], the government associates itself with the same pain,” Ms Swaraj said.

“Our aim is to protect the interests of Tamils in Sri Lanka. You can achieve this through two means: by either doing it forcefully or through persuasion with the friendly country,” she said answering a question from D. Raja of the Communist Party of India (CPI).

HRC session

The Minister’s comments came in the backdrop of the 34th Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC), where the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR) on Sri Lanka was presented.

The report assessed the progress made in the implementation of UNHRC resolution 30/1, on human rights and reconciliation between October 2015 and January 2017, and suggested that more efforts were needed for the improvement of the human rights situation of Sri Lanka.

The HRC’s session is coming to an end on Friday and, despite criticism of Colombo’s human rights record, the resolution is expected to get another extension.

Raja’s poser

Ms. Swaraj said India’s role in the HRC had been guided by the belief that human rights concerns of the Sri Lankan Tamils could be addressed in a “constructive and inclusive” manner. However, Mr. Raja sought clarification on how long India could wait for Colombo to act on human rights concerns.

“The war in Sri Lanka was over in 2009, but the government of Sri Lanka has not done anything to punish those accused of war crimes against unarmed Tamils. There have been similar violence in other parts of the world, but reconciliation and accountability have been practised following the war. But in the case of Sri Lanka, the government has shown total disrespect to international concerns,” said Mr. Raja. He urged the government to work with Sri Lanka for greater human rights accountability.

Ms. Swaraj, however, said India had adopted a consensus-based approach on Sri Lanka and would ensure that the pluralistic identity of the country was preserved. “As Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour, India cannot remain untouched by the developments in that country. We hope that with the sagacity and political will of its leadership and the support of its people, Sri Lanka will achieve genuine reconciliation and development,”, she said.

But Mr. Raja said India should not appear like a party which was also helping Sri Lanka in skirting accountability in human rights violations. “India helped Sri Lanka fight the Tamil Tigers. Is there a guilt conscience that India is trying to hide by not exposing Sri Lanka’s inaction,” he asked. (The Hindu)

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