Daily News Analysis

India at UN, on Sri Lanka  

26th March, 2021 International Relations


  • India abstained from voting on a resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that makes a wide-ranging and damaging commentary on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
  • This is the eighth resolution on Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council since the end of the war against the LTTE in 2009.
  • India’s record of voting on these resolutions shows the ups and downs of New Delhi-Colombo relations, the pressures on coalitions in India, the influence of politics and parties in Tamil Nadu, and the ebb and flow of regional and international geopolitics.


Resolution 46/L1, 2021: Resolution 46/L1 has decided, among other things, to strengthen the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to collect, consolidate, analyse, and preserve information and develop possible strategies for future accountability processes for gross violations of human rights.



  • It refers to persistent lack of accountability for rights abuses committed through the years by all parties in Sri Lanka, including the LTTE.
  • Most seriously, it expresses a lack of confidence in the ability of the present government in Colombo to address the shortcomings.
  • It describes “trends emerging over the past year” as an “early warning sign” of the deterioration of the climate in Sri Lanka for individual freedoms and rights, militarisation of civilian government functions, erosion of independence of the judiciary and institutions responsible for protection and promotion of human rights, the marginalisation of Muslims and Tamils, and policies that undermine right to freedom of religion.


Resolution S-11, 2009:

  • The 2009 resolution, moved by Sri Lanka, reflected its optimism following the defeat of the LTTE.
  • It urged the international community to help with financial assistance towards rebuilding, and welcomed the resolve of the Sri Lankan government to begin a broader dialogue to enhance the process of political settlement and to bring about lasting peace and development based on consensus among and respect for the rights of all ethnic and religious groups.
  • The preamble to the resolution contained a commitment by Sri Lanka to a political solution with implementation of the 13th Amendment to bring about lasting peace and reconciliation.


Resolution 19/2, 2012: Moved by the US, this resolution took note of the LLRC report, expressed concern that it did not address the serious allegations of violations of international law, and urged it to implement the “constructive” recommendations contained in it. India was among 24 countries that voted in favour of the resolution along with the US and the European bloc.


Resolution HRC 22/1, 2013:

  • In 2013, India joined 25 countries including the European bloc in voting against Sri Lanka.
  • In perhaps its strongest statement ever against Sri Lanka, India said the end of the conflict had provided an opportunity for a lasting political settlement, and called on Sri Lanka to ensure accountability for rights abuses and loss of civilian lives “to the satisfaction of the international community”.


Resolution 25/1, 2014: In 2014, around the time that China had made huge economic and political inroads in Sri Lanka, India abstained from resolution 25/1 that called for an independent and credible investigation and asked Sri Lanka to make public the results of its investigations into alleged violations by security forces, and to investigate all alleged attacks on journalists, human rights defenders, and religious minorities.


Resolutions 34/1 & 40/1:

  • As Sri Lanka missed its deadlines, two more resolutions were moved in the following years to enable it to fulfil its commitments —34/1 in 2017, and 40/1 in 2019.
  • When the government changed again, starting with election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2019, an interim government under Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa announced in 2020 that it was pulling out of 30/1, and that it would set up its own justice and redressal mechanisms to address all issues.


Current Resolution:

  • This year’s resolution was preceded by a scathing report by the Human Rights Commissioner on the Sri Lankan situation.
  • India’s statement last month preceding the vote emphasised that the unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, and equality, justice, dignity for Tamils were “not either-or choices” for India.
  • It asked Sri Lana to take the necessary steps to meet Tamil aspirations through a process of reconciliation, and full implementation of the 13th Amendment.