By Janith Aranze
Over the last few weeks, a number of countries have been queuing up at the diplomatic doorstep of Sri Lanka, to have their say on the reconciliation process and alleged war crimes that are deemed to have taken place during the last phase of the civil war. However India, perhaps the most significant and influential actor in Sri Lanka affairs, has been conspicuous in its silence.
This week US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa Jayaram in Chennai, where Sri Lanka was very much on the agenda. With Jayaram insisting on a proper settlement for Sri Lankan Tamils as one of her main objectives, the pendulum is swinging towards India and the role they have to play in post-war Sri Lanka.
Last week former Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, accused the Indian government of ‘sitting on the fence’ when it came to confronting the Sri Lanka issue. The Sunday Leader since then spoke with Singh who responded to our questions via email on the role of India in post-war Sri Lanka.
You have recently said that the Indian government cannot sit on the fence with regard to alleged war crimes committed in Sri Lanka. Why do you think the Indian government has taken so long to react to the allegations?
Government’s seeming inaction can be explained only by the government of India. Clearly, though, not reacting to such events over a length of time amounts to ‘fence-sitting’.
The Channel 4 documentary ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ has been airing on Indian television for the past week now, what do you make of the documentary?
It is graphic in depicting details, though, without any response from those charged with being guilty.
Do you think it is damaging to air an unproven documentary on Indian national television?
All news broadcasts, visual or written must be based on facts, for facts are sacrosanct. Opinions can be and do vary.
How authentic do you think the documentary is?
I am unable to comment on authenticity or its related aspects
If you think the video is authentic, do you think the content shown in the documentary is definitive evidence that war crimes were carried by the Sri Lankan government?
Again I am unable to comment of the authenticity of the video
The UN Panel report released in April this year has found credible reports of war crimes committed by both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. Should the Indian government put any weight to this report?
I have not examined the said ‘Report’, but criminal acts or atrocities are not to be judged by the identity of the perpetrators, only by the crime committed.
Assessment of an act of criminality must be neutral to identify. The policy of the Government of India has consistently been supportive of Sri Lanka’s territorial and constitutional unity whilst simultaneously working for a peaceful resolution of ethnic issues.
Britain has recently called for an independent, international investigation into war crimes committed during the last stage of the Sri Lankan civil war, would India support such a move?
It is reportedly a British move, not Indian. Why should India follow that lead?
If it is believed that the Sri Lankan government should be investigated for alleged war crimes, should the actions of the LTTE not also be similarly investigated?
See my reply for question 7