The UN logo at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (HT archive)
The UN logo at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (HT archive)

India, Pakistan square off at UN on resolution on protecting religious sites

The Indian side criticising Pakistan for co-sponsoring the move weeks after the demolition of a Hindu temple; the resolution was passed unanimously after Saudi Arabia and Morocco piloted negotiations on a consensus text
By HT Correspondent | Edited by Smriti Sinha
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2021 12:48 PM IST

India and Pakistan squared off at the UN 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.

Also read | China backs Guterres for second term as UN Secretary-General

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, 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 smokescreen for countries like Pakistan to hide behind,” he added.

India, as a multicultural state, country safeguards all religious and cultural rights and protects places of worship. However, 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 authorities stood idly by, the Indian representative said.

“The terrorist bombing of the Sikh gurudwara in Afghanistan where 25 Sikh worshippers were killed is yet another example of this vulnerability,” he added.

Warning against selective enforcement of laws against attacks on religious sites, he stressed that as long as such selectivity exists, the world will never be able to foster a real culture of peace.

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