18 October, 2021


‘Under Coalition Politics, India Has No Single Sri Lanka Policy’ – THE TIMES OF INDIA


Read it in Times of India click here

Sri Lanka experienced 25 years of conflict, losing over 1,00,000 lives – by showing little remorse, has its government lost a historic chance for reconciliation?

Yes – there’s been plenty of triumphalism instead. The Sri Lankan government has successfully cast this as a war on terror. That sold extremely well in terms of recent global politics.

You’ve spent time in Sri Lanka through the war – please explain why the Sri Lankan government has a problem accepting that human rights violations might have occurred? And against such denials, can victims of violations get justice?

We’re not talking just about rights violations here, which are an inevitable part of war. We’re talking about large-scale war crimes, to account for which there’s been no serious attempt by the government of Sri Lanka. There can never really be any justice for victims of human rights abuses – but this is about creating a lasting peace and whether the government of Sri Lanka is serious about creating conditions towards such peace.

Considering that, how sound is an Indian argument that a negative vote in the UN may impact the delicate devolution process in Sri Lanka?

There’s no real sign of a serious intention to pursue devolution. There are complex domestic reasons for this in Sri Lanka. But so far as India using that as justification for protecting Sri Lanka from scrutiny of its human rights record goes – well, the basis is very thina¦I believe among India`s primary motivations is a desire to be good neighbours with countries on its border alongside concerns over the rise of Chinese and, to a lesser extent, Pakistani influence in the island. Concern over the fate of the Tamils is at a distant third place.

Yet the ‘Tamil cause’ is the only issue on which warring political parties unite in Tamil Nadu. But the Indian government’s policy on Sri Lanka keeps wavering – any comments?

I believe India’s Sri Lanka policy has not been well-established because of differing opinions in the military and political establishments and the shifting sands of state politics in Tamil Nadu. Under a single-party government, India’s policy was clear. Under coalition politics, India has no single Sri Lanka policy – India gives the impression of having a much more day-to-day response.

The Indian government feels political compulsions from one state can’t decide its foreign policy – doesn’t that justify its no-vote against country-specific resolutions at the UN?

I don’t think it can be justified, certainly not on a narrow legalese view of the state of the rule-of-law in Sri Lanka. Nor can it be justified in terms of big-power democratic leadership – to which India presumably aspires. Perhaps it can be justified on the basis that India doesn’t want its own handling of Kashmir or the Naxalite rebellions or other internal discontent examined too closely. It can’t be justified on the basis of international covenants to which India is signatory… but in the end, like any government, it`s a question of power and what will matter is if the government can keep its numbers in Delhi, no matter which way they vote in Geneva.

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