Indian Envoy to UN Syed Akbaruddin(ANI photo file)
Indian Envoy to UN Syed Akbaruddin(ANI photo file)

They may stoop low, we soar high’: India to ignore Pakistan at UN

At a press conference, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin was asked questions about Pakistan’s purported plans of raising Kashmir.
Hindustan Times, New York | By Yashwant Raj
UPDATED ON JUL 01, 2020 10:08 PM IST

India will “soar high” while others “stoop low” at the UN General Assembly debates , the country’s top diplomat at the body said– an indication it won’t compete with Pakistan and focus on its most expansive outreach to other nations and pressing goals such as climate change.

“There may be some who stoop low,” Syed Akbaruddin, India’s top diplomat to the UN, told a news conference on Thursday while addressing questions about Pakistan’s plans to raise the Kashmir issue. “Our response to them is we soar high. They may stoop low, we soar high.”

Pakistan’s leadership has said Prime Minister Imran Khan intends to focus on the Kashmir issue, especially India’s revocation of the state’s special status and alleged human rights abuses in the region, during his address to the General Assembly on September 27. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to speak before Khan the same day.

A variation of the phrase used by Akbaruddin was deployed by former first lady Michelle Obama in a speech backing Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, and against the divisive politics of then Republican nominee Donald Trump. “Our motto is, when they go low, we go high,” she had said.

Watch: PM Modi’s US visit, meet with Trump and more: Foreign Secy lists details


Though the remarks were aimed at Trump, Michelle Obama didn’t name him. Akbaruddin too didn’t refer to Pakistan in his 40-minute briefing on Modi’s engagements in the US, but left no doubt who was in his crosshairs.

“We have seen them mainstream terrorism,” Akbaruddin said. Referring to the “shrill” campaign waged by Pakistan on Kashmir, he added, “They now want to mainstream hate speech.”

During a briefing in New Delhi on Thursday, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale too said Modi will focus on India’s role in shaping the global agenda at the UN General Assembly and wouldn’t discuss the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

But it is unlikely India will take it quietly as Pakistan keeps up its drumbeat of attacks. There appears to be a strategy in place though Akbaruddin refused to say more.

According to people working on these issues in the US and India, it could be something like this: India will pursue goals such as climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and if Pakistan seeks to drag it through the mud by interfering in India’s internal affairs, it will be made to suffer.

Asked if “right of reply” statements, a UN rule for debates that allows countries to defend themselves when attacked from the floor, could be deployed to counter Prime Minister Khan’s vitriol, Akbaruddin, said: “It’s bad tactics to tell everybody what tactical approach you will apply. You may call me anything but I am not a bad tactician.” The right of reply could part of India’s strategy. On Akbaruddin’s watch, the Indian mission has turned it into a potent weapon to launch devastating counter-attacks.

For instance, Pakistan was called the “Ivy League of terrorism” and “Terroristan” during right of reply statements in response to Pakistani premiers Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Nawaz Sharif’s speeches in 2017 and 2016 respectively. Both were delivered by one of the Indian mission’s junior diplomats, first secretary Eenam Gambhir.

Paulomi Tripathi, the junior-most diplomat in the Indian mission, told the General Assembly, in a right of reply at the 2017 debates, that the top Pakistani diplomat to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, had used an award-winning photograph of a scarred girl from Palestine to allege police brutality in Kashmir.

Lodhi, the face of Pakistan’s recent efforts to drum up support for Kashmir, never recanted or apologised.

But UN diplomats cited the Lodhi episode to warn of the risks of a badly planned or executed use of this tool. Lodhi made the false claim, with some over-the-top dramatics, in a right of reply to counter then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj

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