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India Hedges Its Sri Lanka Atrocity Vote

How do politicians in a democracy balance domestic politics and international realities?

They juggle, and that is what India did at the UN’s Human Rights Council vote on (credibly) alleged war crimes and other violations of the rights of the Tamil minority on Sri Lanka. India voted for the resolution, pleasing the 60 million Tamils who live in south India and are deeply concerned by the well-being of their cousins over the water. But it also added a couple of amendments that make the resolution even more toothless than the usual bad conduct notes that UN bodies issue from time to time. As passed, the resolution urges Sri Lanka to investigate itself and offers to help; there are no consequences to a failure to comply.

That, the Indian government hopes, will avoid inflaming feelings in Sri Lanka, driving into a closer relationship with Indian archrival China. Press reports have the Sri Lankan government reacting with fury; it is not clear whether this is a charade or whether the government is actually annoyed.

The three human rights superpowers (China, Russia and Cuba) voted against the resolution.

Sri Lanka is probably the country that most worries India when it thinks about future naval competition with China in the Indian Ocean. Strategically located off India’s south coast and athwart major trading routes, if Sri Lanka offered China basing facilities, India’s regional position could be seriously undermined.

On the other hand, the Congress Party-led coalition in India has taken some nasty knocks of late. Tamils lobbied heavily for a yes vote. The Indian government must now hope that the Tamil lobby ignores the way India weakened the resolution and that Sri Lanka is grateful enough that the resolution is toothless that it doesn’t greatly resent India’s final vote.

Vain hopes, perhaps, but this is exactly the way foreign policy often works in a democratic state.

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  • Corlyss

    I wonder how the US would have fared had the UN do-gooders had been around in 1865.

  • sagarika

    No mention of the role China played in totally destroying the Tamils? No mention of S Lankan reliance on China led atrocities to achieve this ‘peace’?

  • Kris

    Given the Great Game implications, I repeat my question: Why did the U.S. sponsor this resolution?

    sagarika@2: No mention of Tamil war crimes and human rights violations?

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