National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon will visit Sri Lanka in the last week of June, as “a follow-up to the United Nations Human Rights Council vote against the island nation in its last session.”
Confirming this, officials here said Mr. Menon’s visit was not linked to the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Rio. “It is too short a time between the meeting [in Rio] and a follow-up to that meeting,” the official said, and added that Mr. Menon’s visit was more about the follow-up to the UNHRC vote.
On March 22 this year, India voted, with the West, backing a United States-sponsored resolution in the UNHRC, censuring Sri Lanka for alleged war crimes in the conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and asking it to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, a body appointed by the Sri Lankan President to study the genesis of the conflict and make recommendations to bring about national unity.
Dr. Singh had justified India’s stand at the UNHRC, and voiced his support for justice for the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka. India does not normally vote on nation-specific resolutions.
After India voted against it, Sri Lanka let its sense of outrage discernible through its media. Post-UNHRC vote, no new concession has been granted to the Tamil minority by a defiant Sri Lanka. Colombo has been insisting that the issue of granting Tamils their legitimate political rights, as envisaged in a provision in the Sri Lankan Constitution, had to be discussed and decided at an all-party Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC).
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which forms the only credible combine that represents the northern Tamils, has refused to join the PSC, contending that this was another talk shop. Already, the TNA and the government had discussed outstanding issues for more than a year. The talks did not achieve any degree of progress.
Three years after the war ended, after many rounds of TNA-government talks and after many countries exerted pressure on Sri Lanka, there has been no change in the approach of the government to what is described here as the “national question.” The Northern Province continues to be the only one without an elected provincial council, and military presence is unusually high in the province.
Mr. Menon, a former High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, was last here for discussions in June 2011. At that time, too, he had discussed the issue of political devolution of powers to the provinces with Mr. Rajapaksa and other officials. Mr. Menon is of the opinion that Tamil parties and the government should come to a mutually agreeable political understanding, with which the various political groupings in the country are comfortable with, so that it helps the reconciliation process. More than a year after his visit, this goal appears just as it did then — a mirage.