Significantly, this rare public disapproval of Sri Lanka’s actions, or inaction as the case might be, follows the island nation’s decision to allow a Chinese “spy vessel” to dock at the Hambantota port despite objections raised by India.
Official sources said though that India’s overall position on human rights situation in Sri Lanka hasn’t changed and that the two “fundamental” considerations for India remain support to the Lankan Tamils for justice, dignity and peace and, second, unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. India doesn’t see the the two considerations as mutually exclusive.
In a dig also at China, the government said that the economic crisis in Sri Lanka had demonstrated the limitations of debt driven economy and the impact it has on the standard of living. India this year alone has extended assistance worth $3.8 billion to Lanka to help it deal with the crisis. India had recently also issued an advisory asking Indian nationals to exercise caution while travelling to Sri Lanka. This has apparently led to a 20% drop in tourist arrivals from India at a time Lanka is looking at India for a boost to its tourism sector.
“India has always believed in the responsibility of states for promotion and protection of human rights and constructive international dialogue and cooperation guided by the principles of the UN Charter,” said the government in a debate on Sri Lanka during the 51st session of the Human Rights Council.
“In this regard, the Indian delegation notes with concern the lack of measurable progress by Government of Sri Lanka on their commitments of a political solution to the ethnic issue — through full implementation of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, delegation of powers to Provincial Councils and holding of Provincial Council elections at the earliest,” it added.
India had recently also issued an advisory asking Indian nationals to exercise caution while travelling to Sri Lanka. This, according to reports in Lankan media, has led to a 20% drop in tourist arrivals from India. The government also reiterated India’s “consistent” view on peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka had been for a political settlement within the framework of an united Sri Lanka, ensuring “justice, peace, equality and dignity” for the Tamils of Sri Lanka.
“It’s in Sri Lanka’s best interests to build capacity of its citizens and work towards their empowerment, for which devolution of power to the grassroots level is a pre-requisite. In this connection, operationalisation of Provincial Councils through early conduct of elections will enable all citizens of Sri Lanka to achieve their aspirations for a prosperous future,” it said.
Caught between pressure from political parties in Tamil Nadu and the fear of ceding strategic space to China, successive Indian governments have vacillated between either voting in favour of resolutions at the UNHRC seeking accountability for alleged war crimes and human rights violations or abstaining. It abstained from voting on one such resolution last year even though China, Pakisan voted against it.
In 2012 and 2013, India had voted in favour of similar resolutions but in 2014, it abstained from voting on a resolution calling for probe into the alleged war crimes.