India lashes out at Pak ‘terror industry’ at SCO | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

India lashes out at Pak ‘terror industry’ at SCO

By, Benaulim, Goa
May 05, 2023 11:38 PM IST

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar accused Pakistan's Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of being a "spokesperson of a terrorism industry" during a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting. He also criticised Bhutto Zardari's attempts to link resumption of dialogue with restoration of Jammu & Kashmir's special status, saying the only issue up for discussion would be Islamabad vacating Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The tough stance was taken following the deaths of five Indian soldiers at Rajouri and Bhutto Zardari's efforts to bring up contentious issues in interviews.

External affairs minister S Jaishankar launched a fierce attack on Pakistan on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting on Friday, accusing his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of being a “justifier [and] spokesperson of a terrorism industry”.

Jaishankar with Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto in Goa on Friday. (ANI)
Jaishankar with Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto in Goa on Friday. (ANI)

On a day when five Indian soldiers were killed in a terror attack in Jammu & Kashmir’s Rajouri district, Jaishankar minced no words, saying India will counter and delegitimise cross-border terrorism and call out Pakistan’s backing for it. He also lashed out at Bhutto Zardari’s efforts at the meeting of SCO foreign ministers to link resumption of dialogue with restoration of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status, saying the only issue up for discussion would be Islamabad vacating Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

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“As a foreign minister of an SCO member state, Mr Bhutto Zardari was treated accordingly. As a promoter, justifier, and I’m sorry to say, spokesperson of a terrorism industry which is the mainstay of Pakistan, his positions were called out and they were countered, including at the SCO meeting itself,” an aggressive Jaishankar told a news conference at the conclusion of the multilateral meet.

Victims and perpetrators of terror don’t sit together to discuss the issue, Jaishankar said while asserting India’s right to defend, counter, call out and delegitimise acts of terrorism. “That is exactly what is happening. So, to come here and preach these hypocritical words as though we are on the same boat — I mean they are committing acts of terrorism,” he said.

While noting that he didn’t want to jump the gun on the death of five soldiers in an explosion at Rajouri on Friday, Jaishankar said Pakistan’s credibility in the context of terrorism is “depleting even faster than its forex reserves”.

Jaishankar rubbished Bhutto Zardari’s remarks at the news conference criticising the holding of a G20 meeting in Srinagar and the abrogation of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir, and said Pakistan has no locus standi on these matters. “There is only one issue to discuss on Kashmir, which is when does Pakistan vacate its illegal occupation of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” he said.

“[On] Article 370, I have a phrase, which is ‘wake up and smell the coffee’, [Article] 370 is history. The sooner people realise it, the better,” he added.

Jaishankar also responded to Bhutto Zardari’s remarks at the SCO meeting on “weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring”, saying it “unconsciously reveals” Pakistan’s mindset. “What does weaponising something mean? It means that the activity is legitimate and somebody is weaponising it... That means they think terrorism is legitimate, that we should not weaponise it,” he said.

While replying to a Pakistani journalist’s question on whether Bhutto Zardari’s visit to India represented a “breakthrough”, Jaishankar said: “He came here as a foreign minister of an SCO member state... Please do not see it as anything more than that... It was not treated as anything more than that and I think nothing from what he said, or what I heard he said, deserves for this to be treated [as] more than that.”

People familiar with the matter said several factors were behind the tough stance taken by Jaishankar at his news conference, including the deaths of the Indian soldiers at Rajouri, and Bhutto Zardari’s efforts to bring up contentious issues in interviews with the Indian media and at his news conference with Pakistani journalists.

“The Pakistani foreign minister has been facing the heat from the opposition at home and any success on his part in raising these contentious issues would have allowed him to score in domestic politics. There was also a need to counter what he said in his media interactions in Goa,” one of the people cited above said.

Though the external affairs ministry spokesperson sought to limit the questions on Pakistan at Jaishankar’s news conference, the minister himself said he was ready to respond to all the queries.

Earlier, at the SCO meeting, Jaishankar urged members of the grouping to crack down on non-state actors and terror financing. Addressing a gathering that also included Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang, Jaishankar emphasised the importance of respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity of all SCO states in the context of connectivity projects.

He subsequently said at the news conference in the context of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he had made it clear twice during the SCO meeting that connectivity is good for progress but “cannot violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states”.

India has for long opposed CPEC since it passes through PoK.

Bhutto Zardari, in his speech, described CPEC as a force multiplier for regional connectivity that can enable all countries to move towards full regional economic integration.

The SCO meeting at Taj Exotica Resort in this seaside village was closely followed because of the participation of Bhutto Zardari, the first Pakistani foreign minister to travel to India in nearly 12 years. As the foreign ministers arrived at the venue of Friday morning, Jaishankar greeted all of them with a namaste, thus obviating the possibility of a handshake with Bhutto Zardari in full media glare.

“While the world was engaged in facing Covid and its consequences, the menace of terrorism continues unabated. Taking our eyes off this menace would be detrimental to our security interests. We firmly believe that there can be no justification for terrorism and it must be stopped in all its forms and manifestations, including cross-border terrorism,” Jaishankar said in his televised opening remarks.

The “channel of finances” for terror activities must be seized and blocked without distinction. “Members need not be reminded that combating terrorism is one of the original mandates of the SCO,” he said.

In a subsequent tweet, Jaishankar added: “We must not allow anybody — individual or state — to hide behind non-state actors.”

In his opening remarks, Jaishankar noted India’s priorities for SCO, as contained in the acronym “SECURE”, which stands for security, economic development, connectivity, unity, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and environmental protection.

With SCO in its third decade, Jaishankar highlighted the need for reform and modernisation of the grouping to keep it relevant in a rapidly changing world. Expressing India’s active support for this process, he noted the progress made for the admission of Iran and Belarus as full members of SCO and for recognising India’s long-standing demand to make English the third official language of the grouping.

He said four countries would sign an MoU to be associated with SCO as dialogue partners. Though Jaishankar didn’t name the countries, officials identified them as Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, the Maldives and Myanmar.

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