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West’s criticism of Lankan human rights record concerned India

[TOI, Sunday, 4 September 2011 09:49 No Comment]

In what might prove to be a political embarrassment for Congress in Tamil Nadu, a Wikileaks cable has revealed that India viewed Western criticism of Sri Lanka’s human rights record with concern as it felt shunning the island nation would drive it towards China.

An Indian official in the external affairs ministry told US diplomats that the West – by shunning a victorious Sri Lanka (after its defeat of the LTTE) over human rights issues – "pushed Sri Lanka into China’s arms", and opened the region to the influence of both China and Iran.

In the January, 2010, interaction, joint secretary T S Tirumurthi said the elections in Sri Lanka should be welcomed and they would mark a new phase in resolving the Tamil question democratically. India was confident that if the vote is closely divided it would motivate the victor to consider the views of the other camp.

"The pattern of Chinese assistance to the needy northern areas of Sri Lanka would not uphold democratic ideals and human rights. Indian security, defence, and ethnicity-related interests are directly affected by Sri Lankan actions. In this regard, India welcomed U S engagement and saw the U S abstention on the IMF vote as a signal of a pragmatic approach," the cable says of the Indian position.

While Indian did not perceive the Chinese role as ill-intentioned, nor wish to counter it, Tirumurthi highlighted that India last December extended a $425 million line of credit to Sri Lanka that had however got no attention.

A Sri Lankan first secretary in the embassy at New Delhi told US diplomats that "that some of the rail projects were funded in part by the Chinese, so it would be "very embarrassing" if the Indians did not complete their section."

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