It will be a tough judgement call for India during Thursday’s vote in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the US-sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka.
While India has voted in favour of the Lankan resolution in the last two years, the inclusion of the need for an inquiry in the draft of the resolution to be examined by the UN High Commission for Human Rights has made officials consider all implications — as this vote could set a precedent.
Sources said discussions were still underway in Geneva to bring about changes in the draft — mainly in the wording of operative paragraph 8, which calls for the UNHRC inquiry.
This falls short of the independent, international inquiry mechanism advocated by the European Union, but which was not included in the text as it would have been even more unpopular.
Last year, 25 countries had voted in favour, 13 against and eight abstained at the vote for the resolution, which had called on Sri Lanka to conduct an “independent investigation” into human rights violations.
With increasing demand for an UNHRC-led investigation, the number of votes in favour are likely to fall compared to 2013, but the resolution is still expected to pass muster on the floor on Thursday.
Politically, it will be difficult for the UPA government to explain a negative vote or an abstention, after voting in favour for two years. But, India is discomfited by the call for an UNHRC supervised inquiry and would prefer the investigation to be done by Sri Lankan government. Last year, India had proposed that such a national investigation should be to the “satisfaction of the international community”.
At Wednesday’s debate in Geneva following the submission of a report by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, Sri Lanka seemed to have solid support from Asian and African nations.
The composition of the Council this year certainly is in favour of Lanka. For example, in the Asia Pacific group, Malaysia, which had abstained in 2013, has been replaced by China, which is not in favour of an international inquiry mechanism. Similarly, Russia has also become a member in the eastern European bloc, which had last year voted in favour, en masse. Colombo has been far more combative about UNHRC’s spotlight on the country, taking potshots at Pillay and the Western bloc.