By Shamsuddin Ahmed – The Financial Express –
The UNHRC (United NationsHuman Rights Council) resolution last month censuring Sri Lanka for violation of human rights during the civil war with LTTE has brought no change in the country nor has the sky fallen on the nation. But the role of India has been exposed to the people of Sri Lanka. India is the lone Asian country which voted for the resolution along with US-Norway group. “New Delhi’s siding with the West against a close neighbour and ally (Colombo) which stands by India in every platform is seen as a betrayal,” Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported on March 24.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa sharply reacted to the Indo-US orchestrated resolution against his government and the country. “No external forces will be allowed to threaten the country’s sovereignty,” he said reacting to the resolution. Firing salvos at supporters of the resolution he said he did not want lessons on human rights from outside and took pride that as staunch followers of Buddhuism, Sri Lankans have a long history of protecting human rights. He was equally critical of Sri Lankan opposition TNA (Tamil National Alliance) party terming its leaders as conspirators, opportunists and traitors for playing behind the UNHRC resolution.
Much to the disappointment of Colombo, India was among the 24 countries which voted for the resolution in Geneva on March 22. Fifteen countries including Bangladesh, China, Maldives, Russia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia voted against while eight abstained.
Daily Island of Sri Lanka quoting sources close to the UNHRC meeting said that if not China, which acted swiftly and decisively in the wake of Indian move, Sri Lanka would have experienced an unprecedented debacle. Hours before the crucial vote in Geneva, Chinese government went as far as saying that Sri Lanka had made great strides in promoting rights and towards achieving national reconciliation. International community should play constructive role in helping Colombo achieve stability. “We oppose using a country-specific human rights resolution to impose pressure … We believe the Sri Lankan Government and people are capable of handling their own affairs,” it said.
The reason for India’s siding with the UNHRC resolution is understandable. The central government was under mounting pressure from the political parties of Tamil Nadu. All the parties including the ruling party-backed TNA demand for autonomy for the Tamil populated northern province of Sri Lanka. The Indian Foreign Minister and foreign secretary visited Colombo several times and urged albeit exerted pressure on the government to meet the autonomy demand of Tamils by amending the constitution.
Another reason is dispute over fishing in the sea. Fishermen of Tamil Nadu use to cross the maritime boundary for fishing in Sri Lankan waters. Of late,Sri Lanka has tightened the measures against infiltration and many Indian fishermen were taken into custody to the annoyance of India. The situation had reached such a pass last year that Tamil Nadu government asked Delhi to ascertain the right to fishing in extended territory, “if necessary by using force.” It is said fish-rich water territory had been ceded to Sri Lanka by an agreement during Nehru’s time. Tamil Nadu now wants to revoke the agreement, if not possible, the area inside Sri Lankan waters should be declared a common ground for fishing by fishermen of both the countries. Sri Lanka outright rejected the proposal.
China’s growing ties with Sri Lanka, marked by increasing financial and military support in recent months, have emerged as a source of concern in India. Colombo and Beijing have pledged to deepen their strategic ties when Sri Lankan defence secretary Gobtabaya Rajapaksa visited Beijing early last month. Gobtabaya expressed gratitude for China’s support in ending the decades-long war with LTTE in 2009 and providing much needed assistance for reconstruction and development of war-torn Sri Lanka. Surprisingly, New Delhi had made tacit efforts of prolonging the war with LTTE.
Daily Island recalled how LTTE was born and trained in Indian soil. J N Dixit, former foreign secretary and Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, in his memoirs said, “India’s role in arming Sri Lankan Tamil terrorists was one of the two major foreign policy blunders made by prime minister Indira Gandhi.” Another blunder was India never investigated the atrocities and rape of Tamil women by IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) during 1987-1990, an allegation made by LTTE itself.
According a Xinhua report from Colombo on March 24, Sri Lanka has warned India of possible recursions over Kashmir after it voted for a US resolution on rights abuses during its war on the Tamil Tigers. Government spokesman Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said some countries or groups might use the vote on Sri Lanka as a precedence to bring a similar resolution on India over the serious human rights abuses in Kashmir where more than 60,000 people have been killed in their struggle for independence from India.