India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says his government may support a United Nations resolution criticizing Sri Lanka for alleged war crimes in the final stages of the country’s civil war.
During a speech to parliament Monday, Mr. Singh said New Delhi is “inclined to vote in favor of the resolution that will, hopefully, advance our objectives, namely the achievement of a future for the Tamil community in the island nation that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self respect.”
Indian Tamil parties allied to India’s governing coalition have threatened to withdraw their ministers if New Delhi does not support the document.
The United States is among the backers of the resolution to be voted on Friday. It calls for further investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military and Tamil Tiger rebels shortly before the 26-year conflict ended in May 2009 with the military defeat of the rebels.
A United Nations report issued last April said tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed during government shelling of hospitals and other civilian targets. It said the military’s actions could amount to war crimes, and it called for the U.N. to establish a special body to investigate further.
The Sri Lanka government has denied it committed war crimes during the conflict.
The U.N. Human Rights Council vote is mainly symbolic, because it has no authority to appoint an independent probe.
The Colombo government appointed its own commission to probe the allegations. In the 440-page report presented to Sri Lanka’s parliament last December, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission said it was “satisfied” that security forces had taken precautions to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.
Regional experts say full accountability for actions by both sides in the Sri Lankan military conflict is a crucial first step toward genuine reconciliation. They stress that “without that there is every chance that insurgency and violence could erupt again.”
Earlier this year, India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna urged Sri Lanka to forge ahead with political reconciliation steps recommend by the probe. He added “these recommendations, when implemented, will mark a major step forward in the process of genuine national reconciliation to which the Sri Lankan government is committed.”