Angry at the external affairs minister Salman Khurshid’s refusal to commit India to vote in favour of the US sponsored resolution against Lanka at the UNHRC in Geneva on March 22, the opposition BJP, JD(U), the DMK and the AIADMK staged a walk out from the Lok Sabha.
Participating in a discussion on the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils under rule 193, which does not entail voting, speaker after speaker pressed India to take a decisive stand against the Island nation. But Khurshid while responding to the demand restricted himself to saying that India would take the “best possible” decision. He also promised to factor in the sentiments and anguish expressed by members while deciding which way to vote at the UNHRC.
Treading a cautious path he said, “When the resolution comes, we will take into account what all members said, study what has happened on the ground, look at what Lanka has to say, what other countries have to say and then take best possible decision.” As repeated demands to clearly spell out India’s stand did not elicit a response, T. R. Baalu (DMK) led the walk out of his party to be followed by the AIADMK and later the BJP and the JD(U) too followed suit.
‘SL army should be in barracks’
External affairs minister Salman Khurshid said he favoured diplomacy over war. Speaking in the Lok Sabha on the discussion over Sri Lanka and the forthcoming meeting of the UNHRC in Geneva on March 22, Khurshid said that anything that we do today should not be thrown at us later.
He said, “What we do should not be thrown back at us in the future as everybody is not our friend.” He added, “We don’t play the policeman of the world or the big brother in any country.”
The foreign minister also conveyed the message to Sri Lanka that the old wounds can be healed if only Tamils are allowed to live with dignity and comfort. He said, “There has to be an acceptance of truth and reconciliation” and Tamils are given dignity, comfort and participation in the country’s affairs.”
Earlier, the main opposition BJP demanded that the government should take the lead in drafting the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka, which comes up for a vote soon. Attacking the government, former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, said, “Foreign policy is not conducted out of fear but with confidence and elan,” adding that India has a lot of clout but seems to have lost momentum.
He also said that India should urge the Lankan government to withdraw its army from the Tamil-dominated northern province. Noting that the conflict in Lanka ended four years ago, Mr Sinha said the normal law and order duties should have been assigned to the police by now.
“Let the army of Sri Lanka go back to the barracks. Let them not run the northern province on a daily basis….,” he stated.
In his speech, Sinha while taking note of the massacre of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka and the atrocities committed on them made suggestions on which he said the government should take action.
Karunanidhi flays Lanka’s autocratic stand
Alleging that Sri Lankan police had prevented hundreds of Tamil protesters from leaving northern Vavuniya town to take part in a rally at Colombo, DMK president M. Karunanidhi on Thursday said that such ‘autocratic’ activities by the island government were condemnable.
In a statement, Karunanidhi quoted the US Embassy in Sri Lanka that had asked Colombo to allow free movement of citizens as saying, “These family members are calling for information about their missing loved ones. The Embassy calls upon Lankan authorities to allow free movement of these citizens.