India abstains from anti-Lanka resolution at UN

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    India abstains from anti-Lanka resolution at UN - The Times of India

    NEW DELHI: In a brave decision marking reclamation of foreign policy from narrow political interests, India abstained from voting on a US-sponsored resolution on human rights situation in Sri Lanka. While India had supported it in 2012 and 2013, the latest resolution was much tougher, calling for an independent investigation into alleged human rights violations in the island nation.

    The resolution passed with 23 votes in favour, 12 against and 12 abstentions. India's abstention comes after MEA raised the red flag on the resolution, saying it would be create precedents that would be difficult to withstand. Colombo, too, had mounted a strong diplomatic offensive with the Indian leadership, including long meetings with the national security adviser Shivshankar Menon. Pakistan did its best to help Sri Lanka by proposing a separate vote on the operative paragraph 10 (deemed most offensive) hoping to remove it totally from the resolution, but it failed 16 votes to 25.

    BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on Thursday congratulated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for India's abstention. "I congratulate Manmohan Singh for ordering the Indian delegation in UNHCR not to support the dangerous US resolution seeking international probe into the so-called human rights violations during 2009 anti-LTTE war by Sri lanka," Swamy said in a statement.

    In 2013, Menon and MEA failed to prevail upon a determined Congress offensive, led by finance minister P Chidambaram, to punish Sri Lanka. Sources said this had a lot to do with the ruling UPA government's sensitivity to Tamil parties. This time, Chidambaram is not fighting the polls and the government has been free to take a decision based on India's foreign policy interests. If India had voted against Sri Lanka, the government could have opened itself to the charge that it was influencing the Tamil vote. Besides, it would have dealt a body blow to relations with a neighbour that is arguably India's closest economic and security ally in South Asia.

    The abstention gives India greater flexibility with Sri Lanka, greater ability to push for changes that Mahinda Rajapakse needs to undertake. Rajapakse has taken several steps in the last one year like holding provincial council elections in the north which was seen as the result of intensive Indian diplomacy. "Things will go in the right direction now," said diplomatic sources. If India had failed to stand with Sri Lanka at this time, it would not have been able to stop the Chinese influence from spreading in the country.

    Moreover, the government has concluded that many countries pushing the resolution are being pressured by their Tamil-Lankan diaspora. India is wary of allowing its policies to be dictated by such interests, though in the past couple of years the UPA government has caved in even at the cost of foreign policy. This year marks a correction in what most foreign policy analysts had seen a downward trajectory.

    Explaining why it abstained from the vote, MEA statement said, "It has been India's firm belief that adopting an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty and institutions is counterproductive.... any external investigative mechanism with an open-ended mandate to monitor national processes for protection of human rights in a country, is not reflective of the constructive approach of dialogue and cooperation envisaged by UN General Assembly resolution 60/251 that created the HRC in 2006 as well as the UNGA resolution 65/281 that reviewed the HRC in 2011."

    But the passage of the resolution was welcomed by human rights groups. Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch said, ""This is a welcome decision, and one that will encourage victims and activists in Sri Lanka who have strived so courageously for accountability and justice." The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) as well as activist filmmaker Callum McCrae have both welcomed it.
     
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