Govt defends policy on Lanka, says 'we should not call it enemy country'

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 27, 2013 14:40 hrs

New Delhi:  In the wake of fresh allegations of rights violations against ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka, India on Wednesday said there should be accountability for such issues but remained evasive on the position it will take at the UN on a resolution against that country.

External affairs minister Salman Khurshid made it clear that India would not intervene directly in Sri Lanka's sovereign affairs even as members in the Rajya Sabha expressed serious concern over the situation there and demanded an independent credible probe into the killing of LTTE chief Prabhakaran's 12-year-old son Balachandran.

DMK, a key UPA constituent, said it has lost faith in the government on this and its members staged a walkout along with those from AIADMK and Left, dissatisfied with Khurshid's reply to the debate on the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

"We are totally and utterly committed to the outcome that must ensure equality, dignity, justice for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka," Khurshid said, sharing concerns expressed by members cutting across party lines.

On the recent allegation about Balachandran being killed in cold blood by the Sri Lankan forces, he said India cannot "adjudicate" about the truth behind the incident and apportion the responsibility on anybody for the "very moving, very tragic, very sad" incident.

"That is why we are engaging with Sri Lanka... Accountability should be there...Whether it should be imposed from outside or come from within... Honestly speaking, accountability is necessary, accountability is inevitable but accountability must come from within," the minister said.

"There is no future unless there is reconciliation, there is no future unless there is accountability," he said but added that India cannot impose a timeline on Sri Lanka for it.

Responding to demands by members that India should vote with the US resolution in the UN against Sri Lanka on it, he said, "What point we make in the UN can't foreclose today. We will make position keeping this debate in mind. After taking position we will disclose here..."

He also said that, "we may have anguish, we may have anger, but we should not be saying Sri Lanka is an enemy country."

India should change its Sri Lanka policy: AIADMK

The AIADMK on Wednesday urged India to change its Sri Lanka policy and branded Colombo as an "enemy" of the Tamils.

"It is time the Lanka-centric approach of the external affairs ministry is changed to a Tamil welfare-centric approach," AIADMK leader V. Maitreyan said in the Rajya Sabha.

"As far as we Tamils are concerned, Sri Lanka is an enemy country, and it will remain so until justice is meted out to the Tamils," he said.

He said there was "a general perception" that the Indian foreign ministry was run by diplomats "whose mindset needs to be changed".

Maitreyan placed in the house a report by Human Rights Watch on sexual violence in Sri Lanka and a CD of a Channel 4 documentary on human rights abuses in that country.

He also submitted photographs of the 12-year-old son of the late Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran who is said to have been captured and shot dead in cold blood by the Sri Lankan military.

Maitreyan alleged that there was no accountability to the "war crimes" committed in Sri Lanka during the final phase of the war that crushed the Tamil Tigers in May 2009.

Echoing much of what Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha has stated earlier, the AIADMK MP insisted that Sri Lanka was in no position to probe the alleged "war crimes".

"A country which does not have an independent judiciary cannot investigate itself."

He urged India to move a single-line resolution in the UN condemning the "genocide" of Tamils in Sri Lanka and sought an economic embargo against Colombo.

Maitreyan took a dig at the DMK, saying any amount of conferences and meetings with foreign diplomats in New Delhi on the Sri Lanka issue "will not wash away the sins of the past".

His reference to the DMK's failure to put pressure on the Congress-led government to end the punishing Sri Lankan military offensive against the Tigers drew vocal condemnation from DMK members.

"All that you have to do," Maitreyan said, looking at the DMK members, "is to force the UPA government to act, and to act firmly in Sri Lanka".

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