India abstains from UNHRC vote on Lanka

Caught between the expectations of the Tamil community in the middle of an election season and the prospect of ceding strategic ground in the neighbourhood, India abstained from voting on a contentious resolution at the UNHRC that sought to fix responsibility for war crimes and rights violations by Sri Lankan authorities, reports Sachin Parashar.

While the Centre was under pressure from parties in TN to support the resolution, as it has done on at least two occasions, voting in favour would’ve sent ties with Lanka into a tailspin given that China, Russia, Pakistan and Bangladesh rejected it.

In 2012 and 2013, India had voted in favour of similar resolutions at the human rights council. In 2014, though, it abstained from voting on a resolution calling for a probe into alleged war crimes.

The resolution—promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka—at the 46th session of the Council was adopted on Tuesday with 22 out of 47 member states voting in favour. India and 13 other countries, including Nepal, abstained while the remaining 11 voted against.

As it abstained from voting, India continued to maintain that its support for Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity and unity, as also an abiding commitment to the aspirations of Lankan Tamils for equality, peace, justice and dignity, were not either-or choices. “India’s approach to the question of human rights in Sri Lanka is guided by two fundamental considerations: one is our support to the Tamils of Sri Lanka for equality, justice, dignity and peace. The other is in ensuring the unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. We have always believed that these two goals are mutually supportive and Sri Lanka’s progress is best assured by simultaneously addressing both objectives,’’ said Pawan Badhe, first secretary, permanent mission of India.

While it abstained from voting, India supported the call by the international community for Sri Lanka to fulfil its commitments on devolution of political authority, including through early holding of elections for provincial councils and to ensure that all provincial councils are able to operate effectively, in accordance with the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution.

At the same time, Badhe said India believed that the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should be in conformity with the mandate given by the relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly.

The resolution recognised, among other things, the importance of preserving and analysing evidence relating to violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes in Sri Lanka with a view to advancing accountability, and decided to strengthen the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner to “collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence”.

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