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After vote, India says it stands by Sri Lanka

New Delhi(IANS): After voting Thursday in favour of a US resolution in Geneva urging Colombo to probe alleged human rights abuses, India declared it will remain engaged with Sri Lanka.

Within an hour after voting for a resolution that Colombo had dubbed “anti-Sri Lanka”, New Delhi sought to mollify hurt feelings in the island nation, making it clear that there was a limit to UN intervention. “As a neighbour with thousands of years of cordial relations with Sri Lanka, with deep-rooted spiritual and cultural ties, we cannot remain untouched by developments in that country,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

“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.”

India and 23 other countries voted in favour of a US resolution at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva. The ministry said India subscribed to the broader message of the resolution and objectives it promotes but underlined that any “assitance” from a UN body can only be done in concurrence with Colombo.

“These are norms which all of us in the (Human Rights) Council subscribe to. 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,” it said.

It also said India believes that primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights lies 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.”

India had welcomed the recommendations of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report, which formed the crux of the Geneva resolution. “We believe there is 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.

“This is, in effect, what the Sri Lankan government had committed to in this council in 2009. “We have noted the commencement of such a dialogue with several parties, including the Tamil National Alliance.” It said LLRC report recognizes that a political solution was imperative and Sri Lanka should provide the leadership to this political process.

“This Council has also been briefed by the government of Sri Lanka in this session on the series of steps 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 ministry said.

Noting that India was involved in a major way in the rehabilitation and resettlement of those displaced by the war, New Delhi said its engagement in Sri Lanka in areas like housing and de-mining had helped restore some normalcy in the former war zone.

“We urge the Sri Lankan government 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 (of the constitution) and beyond.

“We would also urge that Sri Lanka takes forward the measures for accountability and to promote human rights it has committed 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 Tamil community,” said the ministry.

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