In a sharp retort to Pakistan’s accusation that India was sabotaging the dialogue process, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday said talks cannot be pursued in the midst of “terrorist bloodshed” with a nation that “glorifies killers” and refuses to see the “blood of innocents”. Addressing the 73rd United Nations General Assembly debate, the foreign minister said despite India extending the olive branch for talks many times, it had to be stopped only because of the behaviour of the neighbouring country.
On talks with Pakistan
“We are accused of sabotaging the process of talks. This is a complete lie. We believe that talks are 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 behaviour,” she said.
Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi were slated to meet on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly session in New York. However, India called off the meeting last week citing the brutal killing of three policemen in J&K and Islamabad releasing postage stamps “glorifying” slain Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani.
Swaraj said she had personally gone to Islamabad in December 2016 for the resumption of comprehensive bilateral dialogue. “But soon after, Pakistan-sponsored terrorists attacked our air force base in Pathankot on January 2. Please explain to me how we could pursue talks in the midst of terrorist bloodshed,” she asked.
Swaraj said the neighbouring country was not only an expert in providing safe haven to terrorists but also at trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity. The minister said the most startling evidence of Pakistan’s duplicity was the fact that Osama Bin Laden, the brain behind 9/11 terror attack, was given safe haven in the country.
EAM @SushmaSwaraj: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 behavior, not of human rights. Pakistan glorifies killers; it refuses to see the blood of innocents. pic.twitter.com/508EjveHxR
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) September 29, 2018
“In India’s case, terrorism is not bred in some faraway land, but from across our border. 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,” Swaraj said, referring to a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which had called for an international probe into the numerous violations in Kashmir.
Describing terrorism as an “existential threat” to humanity, Swaraj said, “Pakistan’s commitment to terrorism as an instrument of official policy has not abated one bit. Neither has its belief in hypocrisy.”
On United Nations reforms
Stressing that India does not believe that the United Nations should become the instrument of a few at the cost of the many, Swaraj said the UN must accept the need for fundamental reform. “Reform cannot be cosmetic. We need to change the institution’s head and heart to make both compatible with the contemporary reality,” she said.
EAM @SushmaSwaraj on UNSC reforms: 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. Reform must begin today; tomorrow could be too late. pic.twitter.com/WbyFbs4s6p
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) September 29, 2018
India, along with Brazil, Germany and Japan, has repeatedly reaffirmed the need for an early reform of the UN Security Council, including the expansion of both permanent and non-permanent categories of membership, to enhance its legitimacy, effectiveness and representativeness.
“If the UN is ineffective, the whole concept of multilateralism will collapse. India believes that we must move forward together or we sink into the swamp of stagnation,” she said.
On the definition of terrorism
Reminding the UNGA that India’s proposed draft on Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism had not made much headway even after 22 years, Swaraj said, “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.” CCIT will provide a legal framework to prevent global funding and safe havens to terror groups.
On threat of climate change
Saying that under-developed and developing nations were the worst victims of climate change, Swaraj asserted that the countries that have exploited nature for their immediate needs cannot shun their responsibilities.
“Those who have exploited nature for their immediate needs cannot abdicate their responsibilities. If we have to save the world from the adverse effects of climate change, then developed nations must lift the deprived with financial and technical resources,” Swaraj said.
Earlier this week in the high-level meeting on climate change convened by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Swaraj said India is willing to take the lead in climate action and the country’s commitment to combat climate change is rooted in its ethos, which considers Earth as the mother.
Swaraj’s attack on Islamabad comes after her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi made personal remarks against her on Friday following the diplomatic snub at the informal meeting of SAARC foreign ministers in New York.
Speaking to reporters at the Asia Society, a day after Swaraj walked of the SAARC meeting without waiting for her Pakistani counterpart’s speech, Qureshi said, “I was quite concerned when I saw the Minister for External Affairs. When I was in the room she looked pale to me. She looked very worried. I wish we could have smiled at each other.”
Qureshi also alleged that India’s “domestic political and electoral compulsions” were behind New Delhi’s reluctance to talk to the new government in Islamabad. “I could see the immense strain and when she left, she wasn’t even willing to engage with the media. I had no problem, but I could see the pressure, but I could see the political pressure on her, politics, nothing else, politics, domestic politics,” the PTI leader said.
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