Government of India’s silence on Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields
After the airing of the famous Channel-4 documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields on an Indian news channel, former union minister Jaswant Singh was asked: Has the Indian government failed in its response?
“The government must act constitutionally and politically. No government can afford to sit on the fence.”[IT]
Compare this to what the former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger recently told an interviewer probing him about the US position on the state of human rights in China.
The American formal position has been that we oppose violence by governments against their people. That principle should not be abandoned. The implications of that in individual cases, though, have to be seen through the context of overall foreign policy.
SPIEGEL: That leaves a lot of wiggle room.
Kissinger: For those human rights issues that we consider of fundamental importance, we have to stand up, but then we also have to understand that a foreign policy price is to be paid for that attitude.
SPIEGEL: You seem to prefer dealing with human rights issues behind closed doors, rather than in public.
Kissinger: I have always said that with respect to China, engagement is preferable.[Spiegel]
So Mr Singh, the government of India is fully entitled to ‘sit on the fence’ in dealing with the tricky issue of human rights violation in Sri Lanka. And is most certainly justified in not criticising the Sri Lankan government publicly.
Of course, Indian commentators, think-tanks, analysts, NGOs, and even political parties are fully entitled to take a public stand on human rights issues in Sri Lanka. It is however preferable — and prudent — to leave the government of India out of it.