Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

India urges Sri Lanka to fulfill commitments for Tamil aspirations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 13th Amendment Provisions

Mains level : Tamil Minority issue in Sri Lanka


Central Idea

  • India has expressed its concerns about the slow progress made by Sri Lanka in fulfilling its commitments to address the aspirations of the Tamil community.
  • India’s representative at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva emphasized the inadequacy of progress.

Tamil issue in Sri Lanka

  • Violent persecution against the Tamil population erupted in the form of the 1956, 1958, 1977, 1981, and 1983 anti-Tamil pogroms in Sri Lanka.
  • Over 13 years since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war, in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed and disappeared, survivors continue demanding justice and accountability for war-time crimes.
  • In the post-war years, Sri Lanka’s human rights defenders have frequently flagged concerns over persisting militarisation, especially in the Tamil-majority north and east; repression, and the shrinking space for dissent.

Why discuss this?

  • Reconciliation and Human Rights: Despite the war’s conclusion, the country still faces challenges in reconciling its ethnic divisions and ensuring the protection of human rights.
  • Economic Crisis: In addition to its unresolved conflict, Sri Lanka has experienced a severe economic crisis that began in the previous year, leaving a significant portion of its population vulnerable. The crisis has led to increased poverty levels and food insecurity for many households.

UN Human Rights Council’s Concerns

  • Political and Democratic Reforms: The UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted the delay in implementing political and democratic reforms, even a year after a significant protest movement.
  • Food Insecurity: UNHRC pointed out that approximately 37% of households in Sri Lanka face acute food insecurity, indicating the extent of the economic challenges.
  • Political Participation: Delays in holding local government elections and reconstituting Provincial Councils have limited citizens’ political participation and free expression.
  • Land Acquisition: The UN official raised concerns about escalating tensions in Sri Lanka’s north and east due to land acquisition for military installations, conservation efforts at Hindu or Muslim sites, and forestry protection.

India’s Position

  • Power Devolution: India reiterated its support for the aspirations of the Tamil community for equality, justice, dignity, and peace.
  • Limited sovereignty: It also emphasized its commitment to the unity, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of Sri Lanka by implementing the 13th Amendment.

UN Review and Sri Lanka’s Response

  • The UN Human Rights Council is currently reviewing Sri Lanka’s commitments, and there will be no vote on a resolution at this session.
  • While acknowledging Sri Lanka’s initiatives in truth-seeking and reconciliation, the High Commissioner’s report emphasized the need for urgent confidence-building measures for genuine reconciliation and transitional justice.
  • The Sri Lankan government rejected the report and labelled previous Council resolutions as intrusive and polarizing.


  • India’s call for Sri Lanka to fulfil its commitments to address Tamil aspirations reflects ongoing concerns about the progress of reconciliation and human rights in the country.
  • The economic crisis and delays in political reforms have further complicated the situation, necessitating meaningful actions to promote genuine reconciliation and transitional justice.
  • The review at the UN Human Rights Council serves as an important platform for monitoring Sri Lanka’s efforts in this regard.

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