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India is too influential to be neutral, says rights body

[TOI, Saturday, 24 March 2012 09:41 No Comment]

India joined 40 countries to condemn "sharply escalating" and widespread violations committed by government forces in Syria on Friday, a day after voting against Sri Lanka. India’s stand against Sri Lanka and Syria has come in for unqualified praise from human rights organizations.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global human rights body, said India did the right thing and would be on the right side of history. "Sri Lanka has been in denial about war crimes. They are determined to stymie any investigation because culpability goes up very high," Roth told TOI.

Referring to India’s vote on Syria both at the UN Security Council and the HRC in Geneva, he said, "India is becoming too influential to hide behind its traditional posture of neutrality. It has to take sides. India has played an important role at UNSC to forge a consensus to build pressure on Assad to stop the killing."

Later, giving a talk at the Aspen Institute, Roth put India’s vote in context. "We have seen India taking strong human rights positions in South Africa, in Myanmar, and now Sri Lanka and Syria, as well as Tibetans."

Commending India’s role in the UNSC, India’s abstentions in the global body are "unhelpful". The importance of India’s presence and votes on human rights issues is also in the realm of what he calls the "battle of ideas".

"China represents a model of development that dictators love. China has been very successful economically. But we think there are huge problems with the way China’s developing. There is a dark underside to the Chinese miracle. India represents a more accountable way of governance. India is an important model. As a vibrant democracy, India shows that concern for human rights is not a western construct."

On Sri Lanka, Roth dismissed suggestions that the campaign against the Rajapakse government was fuelled by the Tamil diaspora, who supported the LTTE. "That is naive. We have done a study to show that LTTE used extortion on Tamil expatriates to get funds."

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