India has called Pakistan a “terrorist state” that hosts “the Ivy League of terrorism” while responding to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech at the UN General Assembly that raked up the Kashmir issue and sought a fact-finding mission into alleged brutalities.
The response marked the latest round in a war of words that has escalated after Sunday’s terror attack on an army camp in Uri that killed 18 soldiers. India also said the onus is now on Pakistan to act against terrorist groups engaging in cross-border attacks while threatening to withdraw or downgrade the Most Favoured Nation status granted in 1996.
During his nearly 20-minute speech on Wednesday, Sharif described the unrest in Kashmir as an “indigenous uprising” and an “intifada” (uprising) and accused India of “brutal suppression” and “gross and systematic violations of human rights”. He also referred to militant commander Burhan Wani, whose killing sparked the unrest, as a “young leader murdered by Indian forces”.
India hit back in a right-of-reply statement, delivered by Eenam Gambhir, first secretary in India’s permanent mission to the UN, who started by saying: “The worst violation of human rights is terrorism. When practiced as an instrument of state policy it is a war crime.
“What my country and our other neighbors are facing today is Pakistan’s long-standing policy of sponsoring terrorism, the consequences of which have spread well beyond our region.”
Recalling the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, she said, “The land of Taxila, one of the greatest learning centres of ancient times, is now host to the Ivy League of terrorism.” She added Pakistan is a “terrorist state” that channels billions of dollars to training and backing terror groups used as “militant proxies against it neighbours”.
Minister of state for external affairs MJ Akbar referred to Sharif’s description of Wani and told reporters, “We heard the glorification of a terrorist. Wani is a declared commander of Hizbul (Mujahideen), widely acknowledged as a terror group. It is shocking that a leader of a nation can glorify a self-advertised terrorist at such a forum. This is self-incrimination by the Pakistan PM.”
Pakistan has been linked to some of the worst terrorists attacks, and attempts, in the US in recent years – the Times Square bombing attempt in 2010, the San Bernardino shootings in 2015, in which 14 people died, and one over the past weekend. Ahmad Khan Rahami, the New York-New Jersey bombings suspect, spent a lot of time in Pakistan, where he married a local woman.
A bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives earlier this week to designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. If enacted, it would cut all financial aid and sales of military equipment to Pakistan.
Briefing reporters in New Delhi, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the onus is squarely on Pakistan to act against terrorist groups that find “safe havens and all types of support…and indulge in cross-border terrorism against its neighbours”.
India would not set a timeframe for this but it would be in Pakistan’s interest to “act as swiftly as it can against perpetrators of terror”, he said.
Minister of state for finance Arjun Meghwal warned the government might “withdraw or downgrade” the Most Favoured Nation (MFN)-status for Pakistan. He told India Today channel: “We are seriously reviewing the MFN status given to Pakistan. India’s security is always our priority. Trade makes our nation strong but our priority will be security.”
Meghwal also said an “economic diplomatic crackdown against Pakistan” was on the government’s agenda. “Thought process is on to isolate Pakistan on the economic front in view of their consistent support to acts of terror,” he said.
Swarup also noted that despite Pakistan’s efforts to highlight the Kashmir issue, the UN Secretary General and none of the countries that had participated in the debate at the General Assembly had “referred to the issue that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif devoted 80% of his speech to”. Instead, all countries had referred to terrorism as the main threat to international peace, “a fact that Pakistan still remains in denial of”.
The Secretary General also did not talk about intervening in the Kashmir issue and had said this issue needs to be settled bilaterally, Swarup said.