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Modi applies UPA balm on Lanka

Sushma Swaraj with Sri Lankan foreign minister G.L. Peiris in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)

New Delhi, July 11: The Narendra Modi government will not support a UN probe into alleged human rights violations by Sri Lankan forces against Tamils, New Delhi has told Colombo.

When the UPA government had adopted the same position, sections within the BJP had criticised it.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj today told her Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris that the Modi government would uphold the objections to a UN probe that India had articulated in April while abstaining from a vote against Colombo.

“We feel that international bodies need to address human rights concerns in a cooperative manner with the countries concerned, and not in a punitive manner,” foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

Peiris had arrived in Hyderabad yesterday for talks with chief minister Chandrababu Naidu on a $1bn garment-manufacturing town set up by a Lankan firm near Visakhapatnam. He today reached Delhi for his first direct talks with Sushma after she became foreign minister.

Sushma’s message to Peiris is significant because the BJP had, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, criticised the UPA government for what it dubbed a soft foreign policy attitude towards Colombo.

Modi, in his campaign speeches in Tamil Nadu, had questioned how the UPA government had allowed a small nation like Sri Lanka to “look India in the eye” by repeatedly arresting Indian fishermen off its coast.

When India abstained from the UN vote against Sri Lanka in April, the Tamil Nadu BJP accused the Congress-led central government of ignoring the concerns of Sri Lankan Tamils.

India was uncomfortable with the UN vote because it advocated an independent international investigation into alleged war crimes by Lankan forces - a mandate that New Delhi fears could be used against it on Kashmir.

But today, Sushma “thanked” Peiris for the “fast track” release of Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka — not just since the Modi government was sworn in but throughout 2014, including the months when the BJP was accusing the Congress of being soft on Colombo.

Since January, 804 Indian fishermen have been released from Lankan jails, including 249 since the May 26 swearing-in, the foreign ministry said.