India’s Sri Lanka Vote: A Diplomatic Harakiri
In international relations taking firm stands against internal affairs of a country has never been India’s stated stand. Purely from a non alignment 1 and 2 angles, the Indian vote against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC came amidst increased political pressure from DMK rather than an independent stand taken to ameliorate the condition of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
If the Indian aim was to ensure a deal for the Sri Lankan Tamils there were a range of options – diplomatic, political and economic available to India. This frontal attack has marginalised India in South Asia when all the South Asian nations along with China and Russia voted against the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations.
In a veiled attack on India, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris, who was present during the voting, said the most distressing feature is the reality that voting at the Council is now determined not by the merits of a particular issue but by strategic alliances and domestic political issues in other countries, an apparent reference to the politics in Tamil Nadu.
How do the Sri Lankan Tamils benefit from the treachery of coalition politics in India? If anything the Indian stand has alienated India amongst the Sinhalese public and sown the seeds of mistrust in future. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later said: ”We had to weigh the pros and cons. What we did was in line with our stand.”
What is India’s stand?
Hindu had quoted the Prime Minister on 13 Mar 12 to follow a conciliatory approach without hurting Sri Lankan sensitivities. Dr. Singh said that in its engagement with the Sri Lankan government, India had urged it to put in place a process of resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction, including early return of all internally displaced persons, early withdrawal of emergency regulations, investigation into allegations of human rights violations, restoration of normalcy in affected areas and redress of humanitarian concerns. The Government of India was implementing projects covering housing, education, health, vocational training, agriculture and reconstruction of infrastructure. “We intend to remain engaged with Sri Lanka in order to take this process forward.” The Hindu had also surmised two days before the vote that India would vote for Sri Lanka. But this was not to be.
As it is apparent now, India failed on both counts: that of managing the Sri Lankan Sinhalas or the Tamils. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had sought to explain that he favoured a way forward on accountability and reconciliation issues without creating mistrust and confrontation. That is exactly what the vote has resulted in.
All the voting South Asian countries as also China and Russia spoke strongly against the adverse consequences of such a resolution and interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state. India has been combating insurgencies in Kashmir, the North Eastern states and faces the menace of Left Wing Extremism in over 200 districts. Insurgencies do tend to result in excesses from both the insurgents and the counter insurgents. Throwing stones at neighbours while living in glass houses certainly does not augur well for Indian foreign policy. This, when Sri Lanka is increasingly drifting towards China.
If the Indian vote hardens the stance of the Sri Lankan Government and diminishes further the facilitatory role India could have played in ensuring reconciliation and justice for the Tamils, it would prove wholly counter- productive.
A similar disservice was done to the nation when India could not ink the Teesta water accord with Bangladesh due to domestic coalition politics compulsions. The repeated attempts to keep the coalition afloat while jeopardising relations with neighbours in the periphery is bad dharma. It would ultimately marginalise India in South Asia to the advantage of China which is fast developing credible political, economic and military relations with all Indian neighbours.
Editorials of all leading Indian papers have argued against the Indian decision which does little to help the reconciliation and devolution process of the Sri Lankan Tamils. DMK has won little and made the nation lose a whole lot by pressurising New Delhi.
The larger lesson for India is to develop consensus amongst various members of the coalition on issues relating to maintaining and managing a vibrant foreign policy, especially when it comes to its immediate smaller neighbours. Putting the interests of the coalition ahead of the country is unacceptable.
Teesta and LLRC will weigh heavily on Indian credibility in times to come.
- SL urges India to rethink on war crime motion (ibnlive.in.com)
- UN High Commissioner Pillay speaks out against harassment of Sri Lankan HRDs during Council in Geneva (thoolen.wordpress.com)
- Uproar in Rajya Sabha over Sri Lankan Tamil issue (thehindu.com)
- UNHRC Passed Resolution on Genocide of Tamils.Win for Sri Lanka. (ramanan50.wordpress.com)
- UN war crimes resolution: India to vote against SL (ibnlive.in.com)
- India should support US-backed resolution against Sri Lanka (thehindu.com)