Sri Lanka & India relations: Perspective

 

By: Parveen Kaswan (Follow for more updates)

US has recently announced of moving a new resolution  at the upcoming session of UN Human Rights Council against Sri Lanka. On the same issue there was a resolution against Sri Lanka last year also. The rationale for such resolution can be understood by taking into account the suspicion of serious human rights violation throughout the ending years of war.  Even there is a big community which is looking Sri Lanka as a nation which is slippy towards constitutional absolutism. For individuals one major factor  is the  passage of 18th amendment which removed the term limit for president and additionally brought several powers including the direct appointment of Judges in the hand of President.1

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Recently a New York-based Human Rights Watch came up with a report titled ‘We will teach you a lesson’ . The 141-page report is speaking about  75 cases of alleged rape and sexual abuse by Sri Lankan troops during the final stage of military battle with the LTTE. It provides comprehensive accounts of the alleged rape and sexual abuse that occurred from 2006 to 2012 in both official and secret detention centres throughout the country. In one more blow Channel 4  revealed few more images of Balachandran, son of Prabhakaran, who was seen seating in a sand sack filled tent in images, operated by Sri Lankan army.

Sri Lanka was also in news when an impeachment motion was passed in parliament against its first women chief justice. Many people called it a murder of Democracy. Chief Justice became target when she asked the government not to take back the powers from provinces without her consent. According to her  a new bill proposed by the ruling regime for this purpose should be cleared first by the provincial councils. But with a high majority government sent her home. This incident is also considered as diplomatic setback for India. The impeachment was geared toward getting rid of some powerful individual who may prevent the country from going back on its commitment to India on the devolution of power to its Tamil areas. India always put thrust on the implementation of 13th amendment, the act that will devolve more power to the Tamils in Sri Lanka. This 13th amendment is a derivative of Indo-Sri Lanka Accord which was actually signed on July 29, 1987, between Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene.

Now from Tamil Nadu, both AIADMK and DMK are pressurising the Centre to vote against Sri Lanka at the UN session. There was a tough debate on the same issue in Parliament recently and External Minister clearly indicated that we do not take into account Sri Lanka as enemy country.

India is in problem with all kind of situation going in the neighbor.  If India go with the voting against Sri Lanka, we will be virtuously right but there can be certain political consequences also. Sensible example can be drawn from last year’s voting session, when India did same but later our country had to farcify the Sri Lanka by writing a letter.2 But in a manner we helped Sri Lanka in diluting the resolution against him. We also put emphasis on implementing the  Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC report) by themselves. The LLRC was  constituted to investigate the facts and circumstances which later led to the failure of the ceasefire agreement that was made operational on 27 February 2002. According to UN body  current situation of those recommendations are also not good, as none of the recommendation acted upon and if acted upon they did that selectively.

Sri Lankan government last year decided to start an internal investigation on the issues related with human right violation but still such committee has to see the daylight. As per International Communities estimates still 90000 people are to be  resettled after the war.

Our stand is very transparent on this issue, past  should be investigated fairly and  rehabilitation ought to be taken care of. Sri Lankan government has two faces, they promise something else to India ( international community) and talks totally different in their own country. India knows the downside of external pressures being used to engineer internal change first-hand. We  have to keep in mind our own strategic interest and for that we have to keep our dialogue with Sri Lanka always open.

Unfortunately India has always suffered from lamentable relations with its neighbors including Pakistan and China, but I think Sri Lankan front has proved more agreeable than majority of the others. It’s not just that Indian fishermen caught in Sri Lankan waters can count on its leniency, but more importantly Sri Lanka has also grownup into our largest trade partner in South Asia. As just because of internal pressure blindly signing on to a blanket condemnation will not be the foremost productive approach. India, as a responsible nation should think more about the resettlement and restoration of peace in its neighbor. We should pressurize Sri Lankan government to implement the 13th amendment with more efficient diplomatic cables.

 

Further Study:

1.18th Amendment: Making a Mockery of Democracy in Sri Lanka : IDSA, accessed on 4th March 2013.

2. PM tries to soothe Sri Lanka with letter: TOI, accessed on 4th March 2013.

 

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