Despite war crime charges, India hosts Sudan President

Despite being declared a war criminal by International Criminal Court for killing over 3 lakh during Darfur conflict, Omar al-Bashir is invited to attend India-Africa Summit

New Delhi: India has decided to ignore a global outcry to arrest Sudanese President, Oman al-Bashir, for war crimes committed during the conflict in Darfur that killed over 3,00,000 and rendered over three million homeless.

Omar al-Bashir
Omar al-Bashir. Pic/AFP

“We have no comments to offer,” an official of the Ministry of External Affairs said on a telephonic conversation over the debate as al-Bashir arrived in New Delhi to attend the India-Africa Forum Summit, New Delhi’s biggest foreign policy drive in three decades.

Highly-placed sources within the government said New Delhi’s decision was driven purely on economic reasons. Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, South Sudan has some of the largest oil reserves outside Nigeria and Angola. New Delhi is keen to increase its investments in the oil fields in South Sudan, which currently owns over two-thirds of the erstwhile United Sudan’s oil fields.

The Centre’s oil import bill, currently at $170 billion (approximately Rs 11 lakh-crore), could spike to $230 billion (approximately Rs 15 lakh-crore) by 2023, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis.

And then, on paper, the government has the law on its side. It is not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and not bound to arrest al-Bashir. But human rights groups have urged India to act, saying the nation must demonstrate its commitment to justice and human rights.

“As a country which aspires to a more prominent global position, India must react and help bring Omar al-Bashir to trial,” Aakar Patel, Executive Director of Amnesty International India, said in a telephonic interview.

Patel said he has the support from 21 international and African NGOs. “Al-Bashir is on the run from the law,” Oby Nwankwo, steering committee member at the Nigerian Coalition of the ICC, said. “Hosting al-Bashir would tarnish India's global standing and be an affront to the victims.”

al-Bashir faces two arrest warrants, issued by the International Criminal Court, for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the conflict in Darfur, Sudan. The warrants charge him with criminal responsibility, including murder, torture and rape. Activists across Africa have campaigned for al-Bashir’s surrender, his movements restricted.
“This is an opportunity to be on the right side of history,” Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a statement. But New Delhi’s preference for economy over everything else drowned the arrest demand.

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