India calls out Pakistan on religious freedom
India and Pakistan squared off at the United Nations over a resolution on safeguarding religious sites around the world, with the Indian side criticising Pakistan for co-sponsoring the move weeks after the demolition of a Hindu temple.
The resolution on “promoting a culture of peace and tolerance to safeguard religious sites” was sponsored by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and several other members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
It was passed unanimously on Thursday after Saudi Arabia and Morocco piloted delicate negotiations on a consensus text.
The resolution condemned all acts of violence and destruction directed against religious sites around the world and denounced “any moves to obliterate or forcibly convert any religious sites”, while strongly deploring violence against people on the basis of their religion or beliefs.
It also expressed concern about an increase in instances of racial and religious intolerance and stereotyping, and condemned any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination and urged states to take effective measures to combat such incidents. The resolution also called on the UN secretary general to convene a global conference to advance the UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites.
The Indian representative at the world body, TS Tirumurti, while explaining the country’s position on the resolution, called for objectivity and impartiality in discussions at the UN, without nations taking sides.
“It is a matter of great irony that the country where the most recent attack and demolition of a Hindu temple took place in a series of such attacks and where the rights of minorities are being emasculated is one of the co-sponsors of the resolution under the agenda item ‘Culture of Peace’,” he said.
“The resolution cannot be a smokescreen for countries like Pakistan to hide behind,” he added. Religious and cultural sites remain vulnerable to attacks by violent extremists, as was seen when a Hindu temple was set ablaze and razed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan last December, while the authorities stood idly by, the Indian representative said.
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