Sri Lanka feels India will support it at UNHCR

Colombo, Jan 31 (IANS) Sri Lanka is confident that India will support it in the face of a US-backed resolution on human rights issues at the UNHRC meet in Geneva this year.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella was insistent that India would side with Sri Lanka despite Indian media reports to the contrary.

"Our position is that India is our greatest friend and closest neighbour and they have been extremely supportive in many issues and they have been a friend indeed. So we believe that stand," he told the media.

"Of course last time they had to opt out, they had given certain reasons, all this we discuss at a diplomatic level.

"From time to time international relations change for a variety of reasons. But we still believe they are our greatest friend and we have had that cordiality right throughout," he added.

In 2012 India voted for a US-backed resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva pulling up Colombo over widespread rights abuses during the war and seeking reconciliation measures.

The Indian vote tipped the balance against Sri Lanka, leading to Colombo's defeat.

After the Indian vote, bilateral relations between the two countries chilled to the point of President Mahinda Rajapaksa openly criticizing the Indian government. The issue was later smoothed over.

On Thursday, an Indian newspaper quoted US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore as telling Sri Lankan journalists that he was confident India would back the new resolution.

Rambukwella was adamant that the US resolution would not have a negative impact on the economy and insisted that foreign direct investment (FDI) would not be affected.

"As far as FDI is concerned, I don't think human rights are the reason because there are people investing in countries with wars. There are other reasons as well like infrastructure, which we are doing...

"So there are much bigger reasons or more concerns which have to be addressed," he said. "Human rights are part of it but it's not the one and only reason."

The minister said Sri Lanka was confident could lobby enough votes from member countries to defeat the US-backed resolution.

"There is no guilty conscience... We are very confident. In the event that something happens, we feel it is an (US) agenda they are working on.

"And these agendas have been there, and we are very mindful of it," he said. "We are content with what we have been doing, and we shall continue to meet the challenge as it arises."


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