The war of words between India and Pakistan at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has become a regular feature. This time was also it was not an exception. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi accused India of human rights violations in Kashmir. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj responded strongly. She blasted Pakistan for creating militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Hizbul Mujahideen and the Haqqani Network. India advised Pakistan to introspect.
Last year, in response to the then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s speech accusing India of human rights violations in Kashmir, Sushma Swaraj in a hard-hitting speech had accused Pakistan of violating human rights in a big way in the province of Baluchistan. This year, Baluchistan was missing.
In the UNGA, there is a procedure of right to reply. India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan used the right to reply against Pakistan. It is not common that three countries use their right to reply. India’s Eenam Gambhir, the first secretary of the permanent mission of India to the UN, referred to Pakistan as ‘Terroristan’. She said the quest for a land of pure has actually produced ‘the land of pure terror.’ Last year also she spoke using the right to reply. The Indian diplomat had attacked Pakistan on sponsoring terrorists. She had said in her speech, “The land of Taxila, one of the greatest learning centres of ancient times, is now host to the Ivy League of terrorism. It attracts aspirants and apprentices from all over the world. The effects of its toxic curriculum are felt across the globe.”
Pakistan PM’s speech was as expected, India-centric and India’s speech was also on similar lines. It was also Pakistan-centric. Both countries need to go beyond being one country-centric. UNGA is a global platform, which needs to be used to raise issues concerning global terrorism and formulate a global strategy to defeat militancy.
Indian defence experts hailed Sushma Swaraj’s speech. Earlier, Abbasi in his UNGA speech had urged an international investigation into Indian excesses in Kashmir. He raised the issue of UN Security Council’s (UNSC) resolution and accused India of violating Geneva Conventions.
Indian External Affairs Minister told the UNGA that under the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration, India and Pakistan resolved that they would settle all outstanding issues bilaterally. She said that when she was in Islamabad in December 2015 a decision was made to rename Composite Dialogue as Composite Bilateral Dialogue. The word bilateral was used to remove any confusion. For India, Kashmir and other outstanding issues are bilateral and according to Pakistan, they are international. In a way, both India and Pakistan keep in mind their constituency and speak accordingly.
Sushma Swaraj, while referring to institutions like IITs, IIMs and AIIMS, said, “We established scientific and technical institutions which are the pride of the world. But what Pakistan has offered to the world and indeed to its own people apart from terrorism?”
She praised PM Narendra Modi a few times in her speech but did not mention India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru was the architect of the IITs. He had envisaged these institutions will play an important role in building scientific, industrial edifice of the nation. Nehru was also the architect of India’s non-aligned foreign policy, which India more or less still follows. Even in Bandung conference held in 2015, neither Sushma Swaraj nor Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh acknowledged Nehru. Nehru was one of the founders of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Sushma Swaraj needs to realise that she represents India and must acknowledge the vision of Nehru in the international forum.
Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s envoy to UN, in her right to reply goofed up. She brandished the photo of a woman whose face was peppered with wounds and said, ”This is the face of Indian democracy.” Later it emerged that the photo of so-called pellet gun victim was not of a Kashmiri but from Gaza and was injured in an Israeli air strike. One needs to be sure before making a statement at a prestigious institution like UNGA. But, it does not mean human rights of Kashmiris are not violated. Human rights violation is a major issue in India and Pakistan. Human rights of the people must be protected.
This year also Sushma Swaraj raised the issue of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) proposed by India in 1996. Surprisingly, till today UN has not been able to agree on the definition of terrorism. The UNGA needs to think seriously how can it become more effective and fulfill the expectations of the international community.
UNGA must be able to strategise fight against terrorism. It must rise to the occasion.