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World View: Has India alienated Sri Lanka?

Hello and welcome to worldview with me Suhasini Haider, tonight India's vote on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human rights council is our top focus.

Joining us Sri Lanka's envoy to India Prasad Kariyawasam, In Jaffna, Padma Rao Sunderji, joining us over skype, In Geneva, there is Peter Splinter of the Amnesty International organization and in Delhi MK Bhadrakumar, former diplomat.

All eyes were on the UN's human rights council, this week as India voted against Sri Lanka for the second time in two years on a US resolution. The resolution passed with 25 countries voting for, 13 countries backing Sri Lanka and 8 abstentions, predictable perhaps, given the diplomatic weight of the United States. But what does it mean for the India-Sri Lanka ties.

Conference Speaker
The results of UN human rights council vote on Sri Lanka was a foregone conclusion.

With the US influence stronger in the council than it was last year, when Russia and China had tried blocked the vote and with anger greater over Sri Lanka's failure to follow the previous resolution.

Eileen Donahoe, US Envoy

We took input from the government of India with their suggestions on how to send strong signals to the government of Sri Lanka that the International community expects independent, credible, truth seeking mechanism to ensure accountability.

Indian Speaker
We reiterate our call for an independent and credible investigation into allegations of human rights violations.

The only wild card was India which dropped its plans for stronger amendment against Sri Lanka but voted with the US.

Dilip Sinha, India's Envoy

We do not see this vote of ours as a vote against Sri Lanka; this is a vote in Favour of a resolution that calls for reconciliation accountability

With its position India clearly chose domestic pressure over diplomatic precedent. The government worried by growing student protest in Tamil Nadu and its ally the DMK pulling out. That pressure had been building for the last month, ever since fresh allegations of custodial abuse of Tamils came from Human Rights agencies and channel 4 broadcast this documentary showing what it called proof of war crimes. Alleging that LTTE chief Prabhakaran's son, Balachandran was executed in cold blood after being held by Sri Lankan's soldiers, even given a snack.

Callum Macrae, Director, No fire zone
It is against Geneva Convention to execute any prisoners; clearly that is a war crime against the Geneva conventions. Neither the men on the ground nor the men in charge and that include the president and his brother, are facing any kind of investigation, any kind of system of justice.

But, Sri Lanka has denied the allegations making it clear that not only does it reject the US resolution, it will never accept international interference.

Keheliya Rambukwella, MP, Sri Lanka
Why should we have interferences with somebody else coming and interfering in our affairs. We have a democracy, very vibrant democracy, we have parliamentary system, we have presidential systems, and we have at the grass root level, elected members at the village level.

Sri Lanka says it has held its own investigation and it plans to hold provincial elections in the North in September this year. For the US and the international community, that's clearly not enough leading to the question.

Does Sri Lanka face international sanctions if it doesn't comply with the UNHRC?

And given the role it has played

Has Indian alienated its island neighbor completely?

We are going try and get answers to those questions from our special guest, but first let's go across to Sri Lanka's high commissioner to India Prasad Kariyawasam, there in Mumbai.

Q1. High Commissioner, isn't this a big blow for Sri Lanka, two years in a row. Resolutions that Sri Lanka has lost at the UN human rights council, clear evidence that you have been unable to convince the international community of your human rights record.

Not at all, this is an extra regional... initiative that was uncalled for. The countries which have sponsored this resolution are far from the region and despite all that this resolution is from a country that is far away, US proposed the resolution and sponsored by those who are mainly in Europe. If you look at the voting pattern, 22 countries did not support the resolution, so that means 22 countries in the world do not accept the content of the resolution and they have accepted the position that we have taken, that we have rejected the resolution because it does not help us on the ground, it only vitiates the atmosphere that we have created for reconciliation and to find the political solution for our issues.

Q. You are talking about the US and the far away countries, but you are not mentioning the country closest to Sri Lanka, India for the second year, India voted against Sri Lanka and this year actually threatened to bring in even stronger language against Sri Lanka. What's going to be the impact of this on India and Sri Lanka ties?

We are disappointed by the stand taken by India, but then the relations with India are very historical and it is based on substantial economic, socio and cultural relationships that has very long period of time that has matured into something very stable and we have great people to people contacts.

Q. High commissioner that is diplomatic language when it comes to India. I want to point to the kind of protests we are seeing, growing anger there in Sri Lanka. What about the position there on the ground, if I could just bring up The Island - newspaper's editorial that really criticized India for its stand and ended with the words: India sure to realize its folly and it's digging itself into a hole. Those are strong words. We are also seeing anger over the attacks in Tamil Nadu against Sri Lankan pilgrims there. The fact really, isn't that a closer reflection of what's happening on the ground, New Delhi and Colombo might say there is no impact on ties but there on the ground, how are you going to manage the people to people ties that seem to have failed.

I didn't say that there is no impact, there is an impact on both sides and that disappointment that Sri Lankan feel is reflected in the editorial comments and the public demonstration of anger against India, but that's a disappointment I am talking about, but on the other hand I am thinking of a long term relationship between India and Sri Lanka which is based not only human rights. But also on economics, social content, social contacts, economic contacts, if you look at it, it's very substantial.

Q. Ok, given that, are you worried about the next step, two years resolutions have come against you at the human rights council. Are you worried about the possibility of sanctions now coming against Sri Lanka as well.

Why should be we worried, we are doing exactly those things, we are implementing LLRC at a pace and in a way that we can be successful in its implementation: stage by stage, not at all at once. We will first pluck the low hanging fruits and then go forward. So that is the right we have, we have found a home grown solution for all situations, I think international community, some are impatient and they are trying to force are hands and that is most unhelpful.

Alright, thanks a lot for joining us, Sri Lanka's high commissioner to India, Prasada Kariyawasam, I'd like to go across to our panel of guests now, joining us from Geneva: Peter Splinter of Amnesty International, in Delhi M.K. Badhra Kumar, Former Diplomat.

Q Peter, if I could ask you, we are hearing from Sri Lankan officials, the Sri Lankan envoy there rejecting the resolution all together. Is this human rights council simply a piece of paper that can't be enforced? How does the UNHRC proceed from here?

The government of Sri Lanka is engaging Bravado when it rejects the resolution like that, the resolution will not go away, the international attention to Sri Lanka will not go away, and the government of Sri Lanka will have to deal with this resolution.

Alright that's a sure answer coming from Peter Splinter, this is just bravado. MK Badhrakumar, I'd like to come to you but first I would like to take a look some of the gains India's had from voting against Sri Lanka there. It seemed to be joining the powerful western block standing against them in fact working closely with the US to draft that resolution. India now seems to have taken an international position, a firm position on human rights issues and even flex muscles on behalf of Tamil war victims there in Sri Lanka. Finally driving home those demands with the Sri Lankan government, but it seems maintaining relations, they are not at any breaking point there, even so many are pointing at the point that this has been at the break with India's past diplomacy. In the past they opposed country specific resolutions, they were of approaching UN human rights bodies particularly as they were worried about being targeted over Kashmir. India always seems to be holding bi-lateral ties above the international fora. That is certainly a break from that principle. India always has been against the word International used in investigations. This time India nearly passed an amendment talking about it and finally India was once seen as the champion of smaller countries against the bigger boys. Now India standing with the big boys as it were.

Q. M.K. Badhrakumar, in that cost benefit analysis. Did India do the right thing?

The saddest part of this that the Indian diplomacy worked sub optimally, It is capable professionally, intellectually of a far superior performance and the reason for that is obviously the political intrusion. I am sure the people handling the matter in Geneva wouldn't know whether to soften the resolution, harden it or keep it as it is, vote against it, vote for it till the last minute. The ambassador was here, just 24 hours before the voting to seek fresh instructions, so this is the whole problem; the Indian diplomacy is capable of a far more convincing show.

Q. Alright, I would like to bring in a very special guest, Padma Rao Sunderji is a journalist, and she has traveled to Sri Lanka several times in the past few decades and actually is there in Jaffana. Joining us by skype,, Padma thanks so much for joining us on world view. We are very glad that ground position from Jaffna, its been a year since that last resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN human rights council the question really: Are people there following human rights council vote as closely say people in Tamil Nadu, where we saw protests in Tamil Nadu, the government really fell as an ally walked out of it. Did people in Jaffna follow it closely?

Suhasini, I have been on the roads for the last two weeks, we started in Colombo and have driven across to east cost which is also a battle zone, we went up through Pasikuda, we went all the way up to Vavuniya which was the de facto boundary between the area claimed by the LTTE and the rest of Sri Lanka and then we went up to Kilinochichi which was the de facto capital of the LTTE and then through the elephant pass, now I am in Jaffna and I would like to say about UNHRC and the vote, No, the primary thing on everyone's mind on this part of the country is development and it is completely surprising to me to see that no body in the international media reporting on the tremendous amount of development that has been done. I am an eyewitness to it and I can tell you. I have seen this area when it was absolutely devastated during the war.

Q. That's as far as the development goes but its been a year since our last resolution at the UN human rights council and the questions that comes up what about the people who have suffered during the war. What about the reconciliation process, what about the human rights violations that haven't been addressed yet. Are you seeing changes there, on the ground?

I really feel and support the Sri Lankan attempt to keep the international community out of deciding on two questions' One is the future of Tamils in the North, whether its autonomy, whether its devolution. You know quite frankly, it's the same in India, This is a sovereign nation, no body from outside has the right to decide on these issues.
Alright what's interesting is Panda Rao Sunderji is infact had spoken to the LTTE former spokes person Daya Master in Jaffna.

Q. M.K. Bhadrakumar, infact Dayamaster making that point that the Tamilians in Tamil Nadu are making it more difficult. What they are doing in terms of protesting is counter productive to the Sri Lankan-Tamil movement. The question really, given the kind of break between what India seems to perceive as the situation in Sri Lanka and the perception there in Sri Lanka and what you heard from Padma Rao Sunderji as well, How do India and Sri Lanka pick up pieces from here?

As I mentioned earlier also, this is sovereign country, it is an elected government, it is not ruled by a military goonda, so our objectives should be to use influence and so long national sovereignty is sacrosanct in relations. There is an inherent limitation to what we can do and that we have to accept and it needs to be explained that this is not helplessness but this is the ground reality in international life.

Q. Peter Splinter if I could come to you, I want to quote from the Sri Lankan envoy there at Geneva who said today this resolution could be against Sri Lanka, tomorrow it could be anyone else. How do you answer the allegations that the UNHRC and other UN bodies essentially work on the US instructions and target countries selectively. Why don't we resolution against the US for civilian casualties from drones in Pakistan or Afghanistan or against Saudi Arabia for human rights violation there.

It's very interesting how the allegations and double standards, almost all seems to come from countries that have serious human rights problems, that's because they feel they are being looked at, the Sri Lanka is being looked at. If a country like Pakistan or Sri Lanka or any other country wants to bring a resolution on drones attack by the United States will have to deal with it and perhaps it would be a good thing, that some of the countries are complaining about double standards do something to actually address them.

Q. Alright MK Bhadrakumar, I would like to the last word for you, Peter there in fact addressing the question of double standards. I want to end by asking what could be the final position for India if next year, there is still no movement and UNHRC comes up with another resolution. What are the boundaries really? Would India go ahead with sanctions for example?

Purely from a professional angle, reading over the speeches that were made in Geneva in the forum is that the United States ambassador in fact was very gracious in complementing the Sri Lankan government in taking some of these measures in offering that the elections will be held and so on. I have a feeling that once the elections take place the situation is going to be very different as far as India is concerned we will also be reckoning with the fact that if we are not going to have a mid term poll, we will between an electoral battle and it is going to make it highly unpredictable. I don't know when the resolution is going to come up, whether the US is going to come with a resolution. All this is up in the air.
Alright and certainly in the year of so many elections in the sub continent, the entire landscape could well change. MK Bhadrakumar I'd like to thank you for joining us on worldview and other guest the Sri Lankan High commissioner Prasada Kariyawasam, Padma Rao Sunderji there in Jaffna and Peter Splinter of Amnesty International.

SH: And here's my take....by voting two years in a row on a country specific resolution against its neighbor- India has made a clear departure from its traditional policy at the UN-HRC..and decided to hold Sri Lanka accountable for human rights violations at the international stage. However while last year, India said it worked hard to dilute the US's resolution, this year it said it was working to make it stronger...such inconsistencies maybe chalked up to domestic pressures...but they certainly mean no moral principle was employed -- and that's certainly a departure from India's past record in international relations.

Up ahead I ll take you to the world headlines this week, Obama wants to take Israel-Palestine peace process forward but his plans were put on hold as he ran into car trouble. We'll tell you more as we return. Stay with us.

Welcome back to world view, let's give you a view of the world's top headlines this week. First to Israel, and not the best start for US president Obama's visit there, his prized Limo known as the beast broke down shortly after he landed in Tel Aviv just because of mix up of petrol and diesel in the fuel tank. During his trip, Obama pushed to move ahead the peace process saying Israelis must recognize Palestine's independence.

Obama's Speech
The only way for Israel to endure and triumph as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization that independent and viable Palestine

As the bells pealing out at Saint Peter square at the Vatican as new pope Francis is formerly installed and his inaugural mass that was attended by delegations from 132 countries including India

Bells pealed at St Peters Square in the Vatican...as the new Pope Francis was formally installed this week...at his inaugural mass that was attended by delegations from 132 countries, Pope Francis made a pitch for simplicity, promising to work for the poor and the environment.

Pakistan is all set for its first democratic transition- President Zardari announced elections will be held on May 11th...but a last minute hiccup could hold it back-- a the Ruling PPP and the opposition Nawaz Sharif's PML-N has failed to agree on who should be caretaker prime minister- while the PPP wants someone to manage the economic crisis, the PML-N wants a regional leader...Entering the electoral scene is former president Musharraf who is preparing to return to Karachi this weekend.

Pakistani politicians preparing to go back to the voter, but we would like to leave you with this image, the girl icon, Malala Yousafzai is going back to school, she must be the happiest kid in the world to be able to go back a year after she was shot in the head by Taliban militants. We would like to wish her the best from the team here. Thanks for watching.

I think it is the happiest moment that I am going back to my school.