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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

Pakistan lies, glorifies killers: Sushma Swaraj in UN tough talk

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj blamed Pakistan’s continued support of terror for stalled peace efforts between the subcontinental neighbours.

india Updated: Sep 30, 2018 10:09 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj addresses the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, at the UN Headquarters.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj addresses the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, at the UN Headquarters.(PTI Photo)
         

India launched a frontal attack on Pakistan at the UN General Assembly on Saturday, calling it “an expert in trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity,” accusing it of funding and glorifying terrorists and warning of a “conflagration” if terrorism was not rooted out.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj blamed Pakistan’s continued support of terror for stalled peace efforts between the subcontinental neighbours, and defended India’s record on human rights, saying there was no bigger transgressor of rights than terrorists. Pakistan “glorifies killers” and “refuses to see the blood of innocents,” she said.

In her address to the General Assembly, Swaraj listed the Indian government’s development programmes, aimed at achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, before describing climate change and terrorism as the “biggest challenge of our era”.

“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,” Swaraj said in her fourth address to the world body.

 

Swaraj called on the UN to act on India’s proposal to pass a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, pending since 1996. As the UN dithers because of failure to find common language, “terrorists with a price on their head are celebrated, financed and armed as liberation heroes by a country” that is a member of the world body, she added. “Cruelty and barbarism are advertised as heroism. The country prints postage stamps glorifying terrorists,” she added in a tacit reference to Pakistan. “If we do not act now, we will have to deal with conflagration later.”

Swaraj, who spoke in Hindi, said Pakistan’s commitment to terrorism as an instrument of official policy and “belief in hypocrisy” continues. Referring to the killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by US special forces in Pakistan in 2011, she said, “The killers of 9/11 met their fate, but the mastermind of 26/11, Hafiz Saeed, still roams the streets of Pakistan with impunity, organising rallies and participating in elections.”

Saeed is the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based group that carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed. He has sought to mainstream his group by launching a political front.

Swaraj said it was “heartening” Pakistan had been put “on notice” by the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which placed the country on its grey list for not countering terror funding and money laundering.

She blamed Islamabad’s continued support for terror for the failure of peace efforts between the two countries. “We are accused of sabotaging the process of talks,” she said, adding, “This is a complete lie.”

India wants talks as it believes they are the only way to resolve the most complex disputes. India has been trying to do so, irrespective of the party heading the government, she said.

“Talks with Pakistan have begun many times. If they stopped, it was only because of Pakistan’s behaviour,” she said, citing as proof the invitation extended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to heads of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) members, including Pakistan, to his 2014 swearing-in. She said she personally went to Islamabad in 2016 to launch a comprehensive dialogue, but there were attacks in India by terrorists from Pakistan soon after.

Swaraj said India accepted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer of talks, and she was scheduled to meet her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

“But, within hours of our acceptance, news came that terrorists had killed three of our jawans,” she said. “Does this indicate a desire for dialogue?”

Qureshi, who would address the General Assembly later on Saturday, is expected to attack India on many points and raise the issue of Kashmir as Pakistani leaders have done for years. He is also expected to accuse India of rights violations -- as Pakistan has done repeatedly but with little traction.

“Time and again, Pakistan accuses India of human rights violations,” Swaraj 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.”

Swaraj also referred to the General Assembly in 2017, when Pakistan had presented photographs of a grievously wounded woman as “proof” of rights abuse by India in Kashmir, but it later emerged the image was of a victim wounded in airstrikes by Israeli forces in Gaza.

Swaraj also renewed a call for reforming the UN, warning it could face the fate of the League of Nations, which “went into meltdown because it was unwilling to accept the need for reform”. Started after World War 1 to prevent conflicts, the league folded up in 1946 after failing to stop World War 2.

“Reform must begin today, tomorrow could be too late. If the UN is ineffective, the whole concept of multilateralism will collapse,” the external affairs minister warned.

India has been seeking UN reforms, including expanding the permanent membership of the Security Council, to make it more representative of a changing world order, and has staked claim to its membership.

Swaraj reiterated the Indian government’s commitment to combating climate change, and called on developed countries to shoulder a larger share of the mitigation efforts and to do more.

“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,” she said.

First Published: Sep 29, 2018 23:20 IST

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