As India goes through the fine print of the resolution moved by the US, the UK, Montenegro, Macedonia and Mauritius on Sri Lanka’s continued violation of human rights before it comes for vote at the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 28, it is becoming clear that New Delhi has few options but to vote for it. The resolution refers to the report of the UN high commissioner for human rights, N Pillay, that accuses Sri Lanka of rights violations and demands an international probe. For two years in a row, India has voted against Sri Lanka at the UNHCR following the shrill notes struck by Dravidian parties against the Rajapaksa regime. The issue touched a new dimension last November when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pulled out and nominated external affairs minister Salman Khurshid to attend to the CHOGM summit.
The considerations of diplomacy and domestic politics that influenced New Delhi’s earlier decisions have not changed. If anything, the manoeuvring space for the UPA government has shrunk as the country approaches Lok Sabha elections next month. Moreover, India has failed to persuade Colombo to hasten reconciliation of Tamils in Sri Lanka and the latest resolution highlights many of the concerns that India has raised with Rajapaksa.
While the substantive part of the draft resolution that has been circulated in Geneva touches most issues raised by India, it should be particularly pleased with the inclusion of the “13th amendment” in the resolution. It “encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to provide the Northern Provincial Council and its Chief Minister with the resources and authority necessary to govern, as required by the 13th Amendment of Sri Lanka’s constitution”. This is an issue that New Delhi has been raising for the last five years. Unfortunately, after indicating that it was willing to go beyond the 13th amendment, Colombo has gone back on its commitment. The draft resolution also talks about attacks on minorities in Sri Lanka, another area of growing concern in New Delhi.