Congress party for probe into Sri Lankan war crimes, says manifesto

Congress party for probe into Sri Lankan war crimes, says manifesto

37New Delhi, March 26 (IANS)¬†Ahead of the Geneva meeting on Friday, the Congress party revealed its stance on Sri Lanka, saying it would push for a “credible, objective, time-bound” probe into allegations of human rights violations and war crimes by Colombo.

“We will work with other countries, to prevail upon Sri Lanka to ensure a credible, objective, time-bound inquiry into allegations of human rights violations and excesses committed by the Sri Lankan forces during the concluding phases of the operations against the LTTE,” said the Congress manifesto, in an open wooing of Tamil Nadu political parties that have called for a strong line against the Sri Lankan government of Mahinda Rajapaksa that stubbed out the Tamil Tigers.

The manifesto for the general election dwelt at length on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. The DMK had walked out of the UPA coalition in March last year over the government’s “unwillingness” to take on Sri Lanka over alleged war crimes against minority Tamils.

In more promises aimed to win over Tamil Nadu parties, the Congress said it will engage with Sri Lanka “to ensure the Tamil speaking people and other minorities have full equality and equal rights under the law”. It promised, if elected to power, to press for devolution of powers to the provinces, especially the Tamil majority Northern province and creation of “autonomous provinces, especially in the north and east”.

The party will extend humanitarian and developmental aid to enable the Tamil-speaking people and other minorities to rebuild their lives in a dignified manner, it said. The Congress-led UPA government, bowing to sentiments of Tamil Nadu parties, has in the last two years voted against Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The party said it is committed to the “articulation and implementation of a robust and dynamic foreign policy” and added the party is “committed to building peaceful, stable and mutually beneficial relations with all major powers and all our Asian neighbours”.

The party also said it would “encourage” the Nawaz Sharif government that has expressed a desire to improve ties with India but “calibrate” the dialogue depending on Islamabad’s actions in bringing to book those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks as well as dismantling the terror infrastructure on its soil.

In Afghanistan, where the international forces are set to drawdown at the end of the year, the party said it believes the “real threat is not from within but from terrorism from beyond its borders” – a tacit reference to Pakistan. “If the peace process remains Afghan owned and Afghan driven, we will work to support it”.

On China, the party said it would proceed with “mutual efforts” to work through established instruments towards resolution of differences in perception on the over 4,000-km boundary.

The manifesto also promised to work to strengthen the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and endeavor to “meaningfully realize a South Asian economic community” and boost greater economic integration. The Manmohan Singh government has stressed on boosting ties with Southeast Asian countries through its Look East policy, but integration within the SAARC has remained tardy.

The manifesto, which did not have any mention of the US or other Western countries, said the party would strive to mobilise support for India’s permanent membership to the UN Security Council.

On terrorism, it said global terrorism must be combatted with “determination and cooperation” and would engage with other countries in sharing intelligence, stopping money laundering and cutting the source of funds for terror organisations.

The party mentioned three of its partners of the BRICS – Brazil, China and South Africa, but did not mention long-time ally Russia. It said “India has emerged as a critical bridge between the developed world and the developing world, along with Brazil, China and South Africa”. It stressed on India’s “unique position” that combines the heritage of the Non Aligned Movement and its advocacy of freedom for African countries and support for the Palestine people.

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