The passage of the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka is proof that the international community disapproves of the manner in which the Rajapaksa government is addressing the fallout of its Armageddon moment of mid-May 2009. The resolution, backed by India, asks Sri Lanka credibly to investigate allegations of rights violations in the course of its war against the LTTE. The wording of the resolution was tweaked by India to say the implementation assistance the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights will provide must be with Sri Lanka's “concurrence”. Yet, Colombo must not misread this concession. Thursday's resolution is the first real sign that the world will no more let itself be guided solely by Sri Lankan claims that it has the will to carry out its own probe. It also means that gentle prodding and quiet diplomacy will not be the main means the world will adopt towards the island nation. Few would dispute that Sri Lanka took too long to acknowledge the allegations of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances and delayed moves towards a political settlement indefinitely. Ultimately, its own ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission' came out with some constructive recommendations, but these have not been followed up. President Rajapaksa may not like the Geneva resolution but he has brought it upon himself.

India's vote has already aroused consternation in some sections in Colombo but it is crucial that its intentions not be misread. There is no change in the Indian defence of the unity and integrity of its southern neighbour, only a realisation that the tardy progress towards reconciliation could undermine the prospects for peace and stability there. For the first time in decades, New Delhi is in concord with popular sentiments in Tamil Nadu but it would be wrong to look at its Geneva vote as merely the product of domestic political pressure. Over time, the false assurances on devolution and implementation of “the 13th amendment and beyond” it received from Colombo have frustrated South Block and forced it to reconsider its diplomatic options. What is welcome in India's latest stand is that it has outgrown its misplaced fear of the growing regional presence of China. Having voted for the resolution, the onus is now on India to remain engaged with the Lankan authorities, as its interests lie in promoting reconciliation and supporting the quest of Tamil Sri Lankans for justice, equality and dignity. The solution has to be Lankan-led. Persistent emphasis on accountability from outside may jeopardise the larger goal of reconciliation by giving a fresh thrust to Sinhala nationalism. India needs to brace for extraordinary diplomatic challenges ahead.

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