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Indian envoy calls for Sri Lanka power sharing

April 4, 2014

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — India’s ambassador urged Sri Lanka’s government on Friday to expedite power sharing with ethnic minority Tamils after a recent United Nations resolution authorized an international war crimes investigation.

Ambassador Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha said early talks between the government and the main ethnic Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance, are a “key imperative” and urged the government to create conditions that would lead to a resumption of the dialogue.

The party is seeking wider regional autonomy in Tamil-majority areas ravaged by the civil war, which ended in 2009 with the Sinhalese-dominated government’s defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels. The rebels fought for an independent Tamil state.

The talks stalled in 2011 when the government said it wanted issues of greater local autonomy to be discussed by a parliamentary committee, instead of in talks with the Tamil alliance. The party now controls the provincial council in the northern region after winning a majority of seats in an election last year.

Sinha’s comments came a week after the U.N. Human Rights Council authorized an investigation into alleged abuses during Sri Lanka’s civil war. The government has strongly opposed such an investigation, calling it interference in Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has criticized Sri Lanka for making too little progress toward ensuring accountability for alleged atrocities and war crimes during the civil war.

“I hope Sri Lanka will continue to engage constructively with the international community, notwithstanding the adoption of the resolution,” Sinha said in a meeting with journalists Friday.

“Our view is that early progress of devolution and a political settlement within the framework of a unified Sri Lanka would be crucial in days to come,” he said.

India has a strong interest in the issue because southern India is home to 60 million Tamils, but its government has been reluctant to become directly involved in Sri Lankan politics since a disastrous military intervention during the civil war left more than 1,000 Indian troops dead.

The Indian military intervention followed an agreement between India and Sri Lanka that led to an amendment of Sri Lanka’s Constitution and established provincial councils in an effort to end Tamil militancy.

Sri Lanka’s government also promised when the three-decade civil war ended to allow a greater degree of autonomy in Tamil-majority regions in the north.

However, the government has recently backtracked, saying it will take back the land and police powers given to the provincial councils. Indian leaders have expressed dismay at the move.

India abstained from voting last week when the U.N. rights council approved the U.S.-led resolution, calling it intrusive. Members of the 47-nation council voted 23 to 12 in favor of the resolution, with 12 abstentions, following a heated two-day debate.

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