India on Thursday underscored that any assistance from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights or visits of UN Special Procedures to Sri Lanka should be in consultation with and concurrence of Colombo.
Having voted with the U.S-backed resolution at the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, India said that while subscribing to the broader message of the motion and the objectives it promoted, its emphasis was on concurrence and consultation.
“A democratic country like Sri Lanka has to be provided time and space to achieve the objectives of reconciliation and peace. In this Council we have the responsibility to ensure that our conclusions do contribute to this objective rather than hinder it,'' India said.
Informed sources said India played a role to incorporate two amendments to the resolution promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. Through one, it inserted in the preamble earlier Council resolutions 5/1 and 5/2 on institution building; and through the second, effectively made space for the country by insisting agreement of the Sri Lankan government, instead of the draft that said Colombo should “accept.” The sources characterised the thrust of the resolution as “non-intrusive.''
Through a formal statement, India said it believed that the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights lay with the states. Consequently, resolutions of this nature should fully respect the sovereign rights of states and contribute to Sri Lanka's own efforts in this regard.
It said that having welcomed the recommendations of Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report, India believed that there was indeed a window of opportunity to forge a consensual way forward towards reconciliation through a political settlement respecting all the ethnic and religious groups inhabiting the nation. Colombo had committed itself to this in the UNHRC in 2009 and India noted that the dialogue with several parties, including the Tamil National Alliance, had started.
The LLRC report, it said, recognised that a political solution was imperative and that the Government of Sri Lanka should provide the leadership to this political process and also sets out several constructive recommendations, including those pertaining to missing persons, detainees, disappearances and abductions, promotion of a trilingual policy, reduction of high security zones, control of illegal armed groups' activities, return of private land and demilitarisation and restoration of civilian administration.
The Sri Lankan government, the statement noted, had also briefed the UNHRC in the ongoing session on the steps it had taken to implement the report and other measures
“We welcome these steps. We are confident that the implementation of the report will foster genuine reconciliation,'' the statement said adding that New Delhi was involved in both rehabilitation and resettlement efforts and the reconstruction process in Northern Sri Lanka and helped restore a degree of normality in the area.
India urged Colombo to take forward the process of broader dialogue and show concrete movement towards a meaningful devolution of powers, including the implementation of the 13th Amendment and beyond.
“We would also urge that Sri Lanka take forward the measures for accountability and to promote human rights that it has committed [itself] to. It is these steps, more than anything we declare in this Council, which would bring about genuine reconciliation between all the communities of Sri Lanka, including the minority Tamil community,'' the statement noted. As a neighbouring country with which it shared cordial relations for thousands of years, and with deep-rooted spiritual and cultural ties, India said it cannot remain untouched by developments in that country.
“We have been bound also by a shared quest for freedom and dignity. We will continue to remain engaged with the Government of Sri Lanka to take forward the process of reconciliation to secure for all its citizens a future marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect.'