World perceives Pakistan as ‘epicentre of terrorism’: EAM Jaishankar
Bhutto Zardari responded to Jaishankar’s remarks a short while later at a news conference, saying he disagreed with the description of Pakistan as the “epicentre of terrorism” and noting that he himself was a victim of terrorism as his mother, former premier Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by terrorists in 2007
The United Nations (UN) in New York became the venue for a face-off between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and terrorism after several years with external affairs minister S Jaishankar saying the world perceives Pakistan as the “epicentre of terrorism” as the country still harbours terror groups.
On Friday, Jaishankar hit out at Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for his “uncivilised remarks” aimed at the Indian Prime Minister and said Pakistan lacks the credentials to cast aspersions on India given its track record on the treatment of minority communities and “indisputable role” in harbouring and actively financing terrorist organisations.
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Jaishankar and Bhutto Zardari have taken potshots at each other several times this week while attending special events at the UN. Jaishankar was in New York to chair two high-level events focused on reformed multilateralism and counter-terrorism during India’s presidency of the UN Security Council in December.
Emerging from a special meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday focused on a “global counter-terrorism approach”, Jaishankar was asked at a media stakeout about Bhutto Zardari raising the Kashmir issue and his deputy Hina Rabbani Khar presenting a dossier on India’s alleged involvement in terrorism in Pakistan. Jaishankar responded by quoting former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s remarks during an October 2011 visit to Pakistan that “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours.”
Jaishankar added, “Eventually they will bite the people who keep them in the backyard. But as you know, Pakistan is not great at taking good advice...In terms of what they are saying, the truth is the world today sees them as the epicentre of terrorism.”
He said the Covid-19 pandemic may have given a lot of people “brain fog” but the “world has not forgotten...who has their fingerprints over a lot of activities in the region and beyond”.
Asked by a Pakistani journalist about Pakistan’s accusations regarding Indian involvement in terrorism, Jaishankar’s response was even more stinging: “You’re asking the wrong minister when you say how long will we do this because it is the ministers of Pakistan who will tell you how long Pakistan intends to practice terrorism.”
“At the end of the day, the world is not stupid, the world is not forgetful, and the world does increasingly call out countries and organisations and people who indulge in terrorism.”
Jaishankar said that instead of diverting attention away from terrorism, Pakistan should “clean up its act, and try to be a good neighbour.” “Please try and contribute to what the rest of the world is trying to do today, which is economic growth, progress and development,” he said.
Bhutto Zardari responded to Jaishankar’s remarks a short while later at a news conference, saying he disagreed with the description of Pakistan as the “epicentre of terrorism” and noting that he himself was a victim of terrorism as his mother, former premier Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by terrorists in 2007.
He also accused the Indian government of linking all Muslims to terrorism and criticised the Indian Prime Minister in the context of the sectarian violence in Gujarat in 2002. “We’ve lost far more lives to terrorism than India has, why would we want our own people to suffer...India is playing in that space where it’s very easy to say ‘Muslim and terrorist’ together and get the world to agree,” he said.
In response to Bhutto Zardari’s remarks, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the comments marked “a new low, even for Pakistan.”
Bhutto Zardari has obviously forgotten December 16, 1971, which marked the emergence of Bangladesh from erstwhile East Pakistan, and was a “direct result of the genocide unleashed by Pakistani rulers against ethnic Bengalis and Hindus”, he said.
“Unfortunately, Pakistan does not seem to have changed much in the treatment of its minorities. It certainly lacks credentials to cast aspersions at India,” Bagchi said.
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Pointing to Pakistan’s “indisputable role in sponsoring, harbouring and actively financing terrorist and terrorist organisations” remaining under the scanner, Bagchi said Bhutto Zardari’s “uncivilised outburst seems to be a result of Pakistan’s increasing inability to use terrorists and their proxies”.
New York, Mumbai, Pulwama, Pathankot and London are among the cities that “bear the scars of Pakistan-sponsored, supported and instigated terrorism”, which emanated from “Special Terrorist Zones”, Bagchi said, adding: “Make in Pakistan terrorism has to stop.”
Bagchi further accused Pakistan of glorifying “Osama bin Laden as a martyr” and sheltering terrorists such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Hafiz Saeed and Sajid Mir, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar and Dawood Ibrahim. “No other country can boast [of] having 126 UN-designated terrorists and 27 UN-designated terrorist entities!” he said.
“We wish that Pakistan FM would have listened more sincerely yesterday [Thursday] at the UN Security Council to the testimony of Ms Anjali Kulthe, a Mumbai nurse who saved the lives of 20 pregnant women from the bullets of the Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab. Clearly, the foreign minister was more interested in whitewashing Pakistan’s role,” Bagchi said, referring to the Mumbai attacks.
“Pakistan FM’s frustration would be better directed towards the masterminds of terrorist enterprises in his own country, who have made terrorism a part of their State policy. Pakistan needs to change its own mindset or remain a pariah,” he added.
India-Pakistan ties are currently at their lowest point, and the two sides have not held any structured dialogue since the 2008 Mumbai attacks carried out by the LeT.
A string of more recent terror attacks by the JeM on military facilities and personnel, such as the 2019 suicide bombing at Pulwama that killed 40 Indian troopers, further raised tensions between the two sides and triggered Indian strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border.
India’s scrapping of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 also sparked an angry response from Pakistan, which ended trade, downgraded diplomatic relations and decided not to post a high commissioner in New Delhi.