Sunday, February 25, 2024

India non-committal on Sri Lanka ‘war crimes’

With Tamil Nadu parties asking the government to back a US-sponsored resolution on “war crimes” in Sri Lanka, India Wednesday said it will study popular sentiments and stressed the need for “a forward looking outcome” and to avoid meddling in Colombo’s affairs.

“I would like to highlight that on such sensitive issues we will need to consider the implications of our actions carefully. Any assertions on our part may have implications on our historically friendly relations with a neighbouring country,” Krishna said in the Rajya Sabha.

“We would also need to examine whether our actions will actually assist in the process of reconciliation in Sri Lanka, and enhance the current dialogue between the government of Sri Lanka and Tamil parties, including the Tamil National Alliance,” he said in a statement.

Commenting on the draft resolution on Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council, Krishna said: “We are engaged with all parties in an effort to achieve a forward looking outcome that is based on reconciliation and accountability rather than deepening confrontation and mistrust between the concerned parties.”

In a letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and DMK chief M. Karunanidhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed a similar opinion. But Jayalalithaa said she was unhappy with Manmohan Singh’s views.

Responding to queries, Krishna said India was closely monitoring the developments and will take a view after studying the sentiments expressed in the house.

“We will keep the parliament informed,” he later told the Lok Sabha.
Alluding to initiatives by Colombo to address alleged human rights violations, Krishna said India had emphasised to Colombo the importance of “a genuine process of reconciliation to address the grievances of the Tamil community”.

However, he cautioned against taking a stand that could be seen as interference by Sri Lanka. Meddling in affairs of another country was not part of India’s foreign policy, said Krishna.

Krishna said India continued to push for meaningful devolution of powers and genuine national reconciliation according to the 13th amendment of the Sri Lankan constitution.

“We will remain engaged with them through this process and in the spirit of partnership encourage them to take forward the dialogue with the elected representatives of the Sri Lankan Tamils.” Krishna’s comments did not cut ice with Tamil Nadu’s parties.

AIADMK members walked out of the upper house in protest. DMK members insisted that India should unequivocally support the US-backed resolution. The Lok Sabha was adjourned for 30 minutes over the issue.

Political parties in Tamil Nadu are angry that India is not taking a tough line vis-a-vis Sri Lanka despite mounting evidence that thousands of civilians were reportedly killed during the end stages of the civil war in that country in 2009.

Krishna said a view on the US-backed resolution “will be taken as and when the time is finalised for (its) consideration” in Geneva.
In a bid to pacify the angry MPs, Krishna said: “It is mainly as a result of our constructive engagement with Sri Lanka and our considerable assistance programme that a modicum of normalcy is beginning to return to the Tamil areas.”

Krishna stressed that it was the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government “to investigate and inquire into them through a transparent process”.

The statement to parliament came a day after allegations of “war crimes” sparked uproar in parliament.
Many MPs were angry after learning from leaked video footage that Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran’s 12-year-old son was shot dead by the Sri Lankan military in May 2009.

In Chennai, Jayalalithaa Wednesday said her party was not satisfied with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s reply on this issue.
“I am not satisfied with the prime minister’s reply. There was no commitment in the letter sent by the prime minister,” she told reporters.

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