India Backs Sri Lanka Reminder
Image Credit: Flickr / trokilinochchi

India Backs Sri Lanka Reminder


Call it the expediency of coalition politics or a new pragmatism in foreign policy, but India defied its own history by voting in favor of a U.S.-sponsored resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council calling for Sri Lanka to investigate human rights violations during its civil war. The decision by India to pressure Sri Lanka’s government over its war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was the first time India has voted in favor of a country specific resolution at the United Nations.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already made India’s intentions clear. Last week, in a statement to parliament, the government demonstrated India’s “inclination” to back the resolution. But critics say that New Delhi’s unprecedented step has been dictated more by coalition politics, as one of the regional parties in Tamil Nadu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a coalition partner of the ruling United Progressive Alliance government, has been pressuring the central government to vote against Sri Lanka. They note that no political party in Tamil Nadu can ignore the issue of the state’s fellow Tamils in Sri Lanka’s eastern and northern provinces.

Some commentators also argue that by going against its Asian neighbour and siding with the U.S-backed resolution, India is only pushing the island nation further into the arms of China, which voted against the resolution, and which over the years has become a strategic ally of Sri Lanka.

Yet by voting for the resolution, India is surely simply signaling a new found diplomatic determination and demonstrating that it has outgrown its misplaced fear of the increasing presence of China in its periphery.

The big question, though, is whether this resolution will have the intended impact on the Sri Lankan government and help foster reconciliation? After all, past experience suggests that Western-backed U.N. resolutions tend only to make the parties harden their positions, and have allowed the Rajapaksa government to whip up majority Sinhala chauvinism.

Either way, the latest resolution suggests the international community – including Sri Lanka’s large neighbor to the north – is no longer going to be held hostage by Colombo’s political posturing and empty promises to look into the grievances of the Tamil minority and the gross human rights violations that took place as the war came to a bloody conclusion in 2009.

India’s changed stance is unlikely to be simply about domestic political pressure. Political observers note that New Delhi is frustrated by the Rajapaksa government’s failure to devolve power in keeping with the 13th amendment of its 1987 Constitution. Also, India supported Sri Lanka in its war against the LTTE, but its generous assistance was offered in the hope that the island nation would in turn be generous and try to help the minority secure their constitutional rights.

It’s baffling to outsiders why the government in Colombo has allowed the opportunity for reconciliation and nation building to slip away. The country has seen the bloody consequences of alienating its 13 percent Tamil minority, so you you’d think that sense would prevail and that the majority Sinhala would try to integrate the minority to ensure a more peaceful future. Almost three decades of war should have offered a lesson that alienation and ignorance of the demands and genuine concerns of the Tamils will only lead to endless conflict and the destabilization of the economy and the country.

The LTTE has been defeated, but the cause that prompted its creation is still alive. The U.N. resolution shouldn’t be seen as a reprimand of Sri Lanka, rather a reminder to the island about its duties to its own people.

April 3, 2012 at 10:44

India has always supported Tamil people’s rights be it in Sri Lanka or in Malaysia or anywhere else in the world and as a country that is the homeland for many of these ethnicities, it is India’s privilege and duty to help its greater diaspora when they are suffering persecution, oppression and discrimination. The LTTE was a militant outgrowth of the Tamil United Liberation Front that was formed to combat the Sri Lankan injustices and persecution of Tamil people that has been institutionalized in Sri Lanka. Even today Article 13 of Sri Lanka’s constitution is not adopted because of Sinhala nationalism. India’s vote against Sri Lanka was measured and considerate, the excuse of “West” and “East” is meaningless considering that India is only next to Sri Lanka in being affected by any anti-Tamil actions by Sri Lanka or in Tamil militancy. As to Indian “trustworthiness”, India can ask the same about Hambanthota project to Sri Lanka or for its repeated game of pitting China against India even after India helped politically and militarily secure victory over the LTTE. Further, Asia is not concerned or alienated by India with its vote against Sri Lanka because most of Asia does not care one way or the other about Sri Lanka’s fate.

It must also be recalled how despite Indian peace keeping forces being invited into Sri Lanka because of large scale violence and riots in South Sri Lanka and India brokering a peace deal that would have brought a meaningful peace deal to the island when the Sri Lankan government couldn’t, the Sinhala insurgency to the south repeated waged attacks against Tamilian civilians and particularly against the IPKF causing extensive loss of life while at the same time the Sri Lankan government refused to allow any heavy weapons or air support to the Indian forces which they so callously applied without care of casualties just months prior in the siege of Jaffna that caused massive devastation and the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians. Despite these handicaps and the Sinhala insurgency against IPKF India continued to make rapid gains militarily against the LTTE through out their time in Sri Lanka.

Secondly, to compare India’s campaign in J&K against foreign insurgents and against Maoist insurgents in tribal areas with the Sri Lankan civil war is fallacious at best. The Indian Army has never needed or required the use of heavy gunships, ground attack aircraft or large scale artillery bombardment against in Kashmir even during the worst periods of the insurgency. Even in Maoist areas, the Indian army is playing only a training role while central paramilitary forces and police forces take on the primary role of tacking Maoist radicals. Unlike Sri Lanka’s Dresden style bombing of Jaffna, India has never had to resort to such brutality in Kashmir. Even the thousands of unmarked graves in Kashmir belong to the thousands of foreign fighters who have died fighting Indian military forces in Kashmir. Finally unlike Sri Lanka, the Indian government doesn’t discriminate nor does it persecute kashmiris based on their religion or ethnicity.

Despite ALL of Sri Lanka’s promises and assurances, the Tamils in Sri Lanka still have yet to fully see equality and political governance. The Rajapakshe government has again retracted its commitment to implement the 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution.

shenali waduge
March 30, 2012 at 07:29

A lot of Indians seem to have forgotten that the LTTE problem was created by India…they trained several militant groups from Sri Lanka on Indian soil, gave arms & financial support & even watched Tamil Nadu function as a transit point. For that favor Rajiv Gandhi was killed … actually LTTE was hired to kill Rajiv…the question is who wanted Rajiv dead?
So Rajiv died…did India decide to finish off the LTTE as punishment ? No. instead India continued to use LTTE to exert power upon the Sri Lankan Governments. …
Now India is telling us look after the Tamil people…this is the same India that watched the LTTE kidnap Tamil children & made them into child soldiers..that used poor low caste Tamils as female suicide cadres after raping them & ruining their chances of normal living.
Wake up India… it is time you admit that India has done an injustice to Sri Lanka…
If India feels that the tamils are not treated right..we have no problem in India asking these people to take up citizenship in India… we have accepted Indians in sri Lanka…the one’s the britishers brought who had been dying on Indian streets for want of food & clothing…before asking Sri lanka to do anything please get rid of the caste & dalits in India..& treat these marginalized people properly…

March 29, 2012 at 23:40

This resolution is not about human rights in Sri Lanka. India is the only Asian country that voted against Sri Lanka and sided with the West (the main sponsors). By taking such an unprecedented step against an Asian neighbour, India demonstrated it’s willingness to strategically ally itself with the West while alienating Asia & it’s neighbourhood. Accordingly, trustworthiness of India especially to it’s small neighbours is questionable. It would be now in the national interest of these small countries to work on a united approach against possible Indian hegamonic interventions as was demonstrated in Geneva.

It must also be recalled at this point, that armed violence in Sri Lanka was sponsored by India at the very beginning by arming and training Sri Lankan Tamil terrorists. Many attrocities have been committed by Indian “peace keeping” soldiers in Sri Lanka specifically against Tamils which is well documented (the massacre at the Jaffna hospital of doctors, nurses & patients was one example).

Secondly, India has committed massive human rights violations in it’s own soil in J&K, the Maoist belt etc. in the name of national security which the large number of unmarked graves amply demonstrate. Draconian security laws provide legal cover & impunity to Indian security forces against grave HR violations. Therefore the politically motivated double game of India is quite evident though many try to hide thinking rest of the world comprises of fools.

Lastly, majority of Sri Lankan Tamils live peacefully among majority Sinhalese & other communities. The Tamils (300,000 of them) in the war zones sought protection of Sri Lanka Army at the end of the war. Overwhelming majority of them have gone back to their villages to start re-building their lives. 11,000 Tamil terrorists have been rehabilitated including over 500 child soldiers by the government of Sri Lanka and re-integrated them in to the society. Some former fighters have joined the mainstram politics. The Eastern province Chief Minister is a former LTTE child soldier. All of these fighters have committed crimes. Government of Sri Lanka and the people of Sri Lanka have forgiven them. A Western styled accountability mechanism will need to re-open the cases of these thousands of former fighters (in addition to SL Armed forces personnel) if the mechanism to be even handed and credible. Will leave readers to conclude the consequences of such course of action and to determine whether it would benefit the reconciliation efforts of the people of Sri Lanka of all ethnicities.

March 29, 2012 at 21:56

Since the defeat of the LTTE, ethnic minorities in the Northeast have been under military rule. The North has been heavily militarised and and the occupation army runs restaurants, hotels, tourist services, tailor and barber shops and the war-ravaged people have very much diminished livelihood opportunities. Northern province elections are not held but Presidential Task Force with 18 Sinhalese members and one Muslim member has been in charge of all ”development” work which is mainly building trunk roads and bridges for tourists and not the side roads inside villages for the local people. Local people and their parliamentarians have no say in the development program. Aid agent are severe;y restricted from helping the people. so are the diaspora. When schools don’t have basic facilities, a swimming pool is built in a Jaffna school and ”visitors” are shown it as ”development”. It is really UNSUSTAINABLE development. The oppressed people are condemned by unsustainable development too beside the brutality of the occupation army.
Coastal areas are confiscated from the original dwellers who are mostly fishermen and sold to Sinhalese and foreign businessmen for building tourist facilities. thus tourism is promoted at the expense of the livelihood of the local population.

March 29, 2012 at 21:43

In the last 64 years Sinhalese have only shown hatred of the ethnic minorities and not a tinge of desire to live and let live. Not so far. No signs that their mindset would change in the future:
Last June President Rajapakse told the visiting Indian foreign Ministry delegation that if he devolved power to the Tamils it would be curtains on him.
The Sinhalese leaders have been ”ethnic outbidding” to get and stay in power, thus instigating hatred in the minds of their Sinhalese voters. This has been maintained by propagating hatred of the ‘other’ by distorting history in the textbooks. UNICEF and UNESCO have reported this but nothing has been done about it.

arjun subramaniam
March 28, 2012 at 03:16

I would entirely agree that India’s voting stance was not only dictated by internal political compulsions. When India supported the Sri Lankan Government during its final push to defeat the LTTE between 2007-2009, it did so with a legitimate expectation that Sri Lanka would hasten the process of rehabilitation of Tamils, initiate a genuine attempt at national reconciliation, and discuss a post LTTE devolution process to ensure that the Tamils do not remain a discriminated minority.

The Indian govt has shown that it has the guts to take a strategic call that is contrary to regional expectations. Right or wrong, only time will tell.

March 27, 2012 at 22:00

No Sinhalese support 13th amendment to braek up the country. Why is India pushing this beyond me.

March 27, 2012 at 19:19

Tamil movies tell us that the LTTE is defeated by several nations as they collaborated with the Sri Lankan regime without knowing its real intentions that was to eradicate and ethnic cleansing of the Tamils from Eelam.

The current Indian regime has failed to follow Mrs. Indra Gandhi and MGR who supported the Tamils struggle as they were fully aware of the Sinhala Apartheid racist Buddhist regime’s motives.

Selvi Jeyalalithaa, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has demanded to take Rajapakse to the ICC and declare Mahinda Rajapakse as a war criminal. Next election in Tamil nadu and other states will be a testing time for the current Congress regime and this will be a turning point to the Tamils as well. Several sri Lankan political and military leaders have been alleged to have committed human rights anuses and war crimes and the lawsuits were filed in many nations.

Indian military can handle any situation in Sri Lanka militarily and at least occupy the Tamils areas, the North and East and order for an independent human rights investigation to put the Sri Lankan leaders in the docks and they cannot play the China card at all.

Politicians simply destroyed a beautiful country with heavy loss of life and property and these so called leaders are no good for any nation except in the Jail!

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