For the third year in a row, and less then two weeks after it cancelled the foreign ministers’ meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, India used the UNGA platform to hit out powerfully at Pakistan over its sponsorship of cross-border terrorism.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj accused Pakistan of being an “expert in trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity”, and justified India’s decision to call off the meeting with her Pakistani counterpart.
“We are accused of sabotaging the process of talks. This is a complete lie. We believe that talks are the only rational means to resolve the most complex of disputes. Talks with Pakistan have begun many times. If they stopped, it was only because of their (Pakistan’s) behaviour,” Swaraj said in her address to the 73rd session of the UNGA in New York Saturday.
“Please explain to me how we could pursue talks in the midst of terrorist bloodshed? Even now, after the new government came to power, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting a meeting between foreign ministers in New York. We accepted the proposal. But within hours of our acceptance, news came that terrorists had killed three of our jawans. Does this indicate a desire for dialogue?” Swaraj said.
Swaraj devoted seven minutes — a third of her 22-minute speech — to the issue of terrorism. While assailing Pakistan over terrorism in 2016, she had invoked Balochistan, and last year, she had said both Afghanistan and Bangladesh were victims of Pakistan-based terrorist outfits.
On Saturday, Swaraj spoke of how the United States had been at the receiving end of Pakistan’s duplicity — a theme likely to resonate with the administration of President Donald Trump, who accused Pakistan of giving the US “nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools” in his famous New Year’s Day tweet this year.
Swaraj also referred to al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden hiding in Pakistan, echoing Trump, who had tweeted, “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help.”
She said: “We imagined that the arrival of the 21st century would bring with it an age of common good, defined by cooperation in the quest for peace and prosperity. But here in New York, the horrific tragedy of 9/11, and in Mumbai the catastrophe of 26/11 became the nightmares that shattered our dreams. The demon of terrorism now stalks the world, at a faster pace somewhere, a slower pace elsewhere, but life-threatening everywhere.
“In our case, terrorism is bred not in some faraway land, but across our border to the west. Our neighbour’s expertise is not restricted to spawning grounds for terrorism; it is also an expert in trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity.”
While American forces had been able to deliver justice in the case of bin Laden, Swaraj said, Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed, the architect of the Mumbai terrorist massacre, remained at large in Pakistan.
“The most startling evidence of this duplicity was the fact that Osama bin Laden, the architect and ideologue of 9/11, was given safe haven in Pakistan. America had declared Osama bin Laden its most dangerous enemy, and launched an exhaustive, worldwide search to bring him to justice. What America perhaps could not comprehend was that Osama would get sanctuary in a country that claimed to be America’s friend and ally: Pakistan. Eventually, America’s intelligence services discovered the truth of this hypocrisy, and its special forces delivered justice. But Pakistan continued to behave as if nothing had happened. Pakistan’s commitment to terrorism as an instrument of official policy has not abated one bit. Neither has its belief in hypocrisy. The killers of 9/11 met their fate; but the mastermind of 26/11 Hafiz Saeed still roams the streets of Pakistan with impunity,” she said.
However, it was heartening to see that the world was no longer willing to believe Islamabad, Swaraj said. The FATF has put Pakistan on notice over terror funding, she said, referring to the grey-listing of the country by the Financial Action Task Force, the inter-governmental body working to promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
Swaraj reminded the UN about Pakistan’s UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi showing pictures of Gaza war victims and claiming they were Kashmiris last year. “It has become something of a habit with Pakistan to throw the dust of deceit and deception against India in order to provide some thin cover for its own guilt. The United Nations has seen this before. Last year, Pakistan’s representative, using her right to reply, displayed some photographs as ‘proof’ of ‘human rights violations’ by India. The photographs turned out to be from another country. Similar false accusations have become a part of its standard rhetoric,” she said.
“Who can be a greater transgressor of human rights than a terrorist? Those who take innocent human lives in pursuit of war by other means are defenders of inhuman behaviour, not of human rights. Pakistan glorifies killers; it refuses to see the blood of innocents.”
Watched by at least two Pakistani diplomats and the Indian delegation, including Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Minister of State (External Affairs) M J Akbar, Swaraj appealed to the UN to come to an agreement soon on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).
“Each year, for last five years, India has been arguing from this podium that lists are not enough to check terrorists and their protectors. We need to bring them to accountability through international law. In 1996, India proposed a draft document on CCIT… Till today, that draft has remained a draft, because we cannot agree on a common language. On the one hand, we want to fight terrorism; on the other, we cannot define it. This is why terrorists with a price on their head are celebrated, financed and armed as liberation heroes by a country that remains a member of the United Nations. Cruelty and barbarism are advertised as heroism. The country prints postage stamps glorifying terrorists. If we do not act now, we will have to deal with conflagration later. Once again, I appeal to this august body to come to an agreement, soon, on CCIT as one of the necessary measures in a long running war,” she said.
In 2017, Swaraj had famously said that while India had created IIMs, AIIMS and IITs which produced doctors and engineers, Pakistan had produced terrorists and terrorist camps. In 2016, she had told the UNGA that Pakistan remained in denial despite confessions by terrorists, which were “living proof of Pakistan’s complicity in cross-border terror”.
In her speech, Swaraj also advocated reforms in the UN. “It is time to wonder if we are wandering towards the fate of the League of Nations. If 2030 is the agreed deadline for delivery on Sustainable Development Goals, then it also marks hundred years of the lapse of the League into irrelevance. Surely there is something to learn from this coincidence? The League went into meltdown because it was unwilling to accept the need for reform. We must not make that mistake.
“The United Nations must accept that it needs fundamental reform. Reform cannot be cosmetic. We need change the institution’s head and heart to make both compatible to contemporary reality.”