Geneva Resolution: The fallout from US, India and China
The approval of the American-European sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka in Geneva last week is likely to have a fallout on the geopolitics of the region if not sooner, later. The United States, India and China have all been involved in the debate of the resolution in Geneva but an immediate impact could result only if Sri Lanka acts in a pique. The big powers are unlikely to be involved in a major confrontation on so small an issue— Sri Lanka being too small and weak a power whose acts can cause little concern.
The American explanation for moving the resolution is that after three years of pressurising Sri Lanka to act on requests for investigation of its armed forces for alleged violation of human rights, it had failed to do so and even after Sri Lanka’s own LLRC report made such specific recommendations. The question now is how Sri Lanka will act in implementing this resolution. It is a non binding resolution which implies that there is no legal compulsion for Sri Lanka to act. But the determined moves by America and European powers in getting this resolution approved at the UNHRC indicate that the Rajapakse government can no longer go on dilly dallying in addressing the issue of investigations as demanded.
Dilution of resolution
The section of the original resolution that called for the office of the UNHRC and its officials to make recommendations and offer technical advice for the implementation of the recommendations called for and for the Sri Lankan government to accept these resolutions was subsequently changed on the request of the Indian Government for the recommendations and technical advice to be provided in consultation and in concurrence with the Sri Lankan government. This removed the element of compulsion for Sri Lanka to be dictated to by the UNHRC in the implementation of the recommendations.
No government would concede that it is abiding by the dictates of foreign powers, international bodies or even UN organisations. Even the dictates of the IMF euphemistically called ‘recommendations’ are followed by countries lest the flow of financial assistance is discontinued. Will the Rajapakse camouflage its attempt to indicate that whatever action it takes will be acts of its own volition?
The United States will not be much concerned about their investments here with the Sri Lankan private sector falling over one another to woo investors. Even the Sri Lanka government will welcome American assistance despite Wimal Weerawansa and threats of starving himself to death. They will no doubt be interested in China’s naval manoeuvres in the region of this strategically placed island. The protection of maritime routes for trade and oil are of concern to all nations.
Chinese entry into development projects in Sri Lanka has been welcomed with open arms but will there be less enthusiasm for Chinese infrastructure development after problems with the million dollar coal fired power generator at Norochcholai and the discovery of a huge rock at the entrance to the Chinese constructed harbour at Hambantota?
Even of greater interest will be the fall out on Indo-Sri Lanka relations. India’s solution to Tamil grievances has been the enactment of the 13th Amendment which saw the entry .into the Constitution soon after the landing of Indian Peace Keeping troops here. It cost the Indians the loss of life of over 2000 of its soldiers and even the life of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Will Rajapakse not implement the promises made on the 13th Amendment even after the Geneva resolution?
What of India’s proposals of police powers to the northern and eastern provinces and powers of land distribution to the two provincial councils?
There are problems of fishing rights for fishermen of both countries in the Palk straits but even a greater issue could emerge on the allocation of oil exploration blocks in this strip of sea. An Indian company has already been granted rights to drill for oil in one section and reports indicate positive signs for oil and gas. China too has made its application for oil exploration in the region which is very close to Indian maritime borders. This could indeed develop into a very explosive issue unless handled properly. However both India and China are responsible regional powers and it is quite unlikely that they will end in a confrontation over minor resources in Sri Lanka.
Implications for Lanka
The Geneva resolution has deep implications for the Rajapakse government. The call to respect human rights and implement the recommendations of its own LLRC report would demand drastic changes in the style of governance hitherto deployed, particularly in the last three years. India’s recommendations on alleviating Tamil grievances are even more challenging. Will President Rajapakse keep juggling the ball and more important will India let him do it. Even if the Congress government looks away from these issues as it did for three years, it is no longer possible with Tamil Nadu politicians breathing down the neck of Congress and Congress has to depend for survival on the support of 17 DMK MPs. The Indian General election is just two years away.