India-Pakistan verbal bang-bang at UN

TEHRAN, Oct. 02 (MNA) – Since the formation of new government in Islamabad, a series of overtures between New Delhi and Islamabad had rekindled hopes of peace and reconciliation. But, much to the chagrin of peaceniks, it proved hogwash.

The battle lines are drawn again. The war of words has resumed. Accusations and counter-accusations are flying thick and fast. The gains made in recent weeks have been squandered.

Everything was going as per the script until India made a surprise announcement last week. It canceled the foreign minister-level talks with Pakistan that were scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the UNGA Summit in New York.

India’s foreign ministry cited the “brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities” and added that the release of a series of 20 postage stamps depicting a young Kashmiri rebel commander killed by Indian troops in July 2016 was “glorifying a terrorist and terrorism.”

The announcement was followed by vitriolic and bellicose statements, in which India claimed that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had “shown his true colors” and Khan shot back saying that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a “small man holding a big office”.

This week, the two South Asian estranged neighbors took their horrid war of words to the UN General Assembly. Addressing the session on Saturday, India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj lashed out at Pakistan for its “verbal duplicity” and “expertise in spawning grounds for terrorism”.

“Pakistan's commitment to terrorism as an instrument of official policy has not abated one bit. Neither has its belief in hypocrisy. The killers of 9/11 met their fate, but the mastermind of 26/11 Hafiz Saeed still roams the streets of Pakistan with impunity,” Swaraj said, without mincing words.

She said India has been accused of sabotaging the process of talks, but it is a “complete lie”. “We believe that talks are the only rational means to resolve the most complex of disputes. Talks with Pakistan have begun many times. If they stopped, it was only because of Pakistan’s behavior,” she asserted.

India’s foreign minister went on to say that the new Pakistani prime minister had written to India’s prime minister suggesting a meeting between foreign ministers in New York. “We accepted the proposal but within hours news came that terrorists had killed our jawans. Does this indicate a desire for dialogue,” she said, adding that the world was no longer ready to believe Islamabad.

In a sharp counter-attack on Sunday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said while his country desired good relations with India, New Delhi had repeatedly suspended dialogue with Pakistan on “flimsy grounds”. “They (Indian leaders) preferred politics over peace,” he told the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, speaking in Urdu.

Dialogue, Qureshi said, was the only way to address long-standing issues, including Kashmir, which have long bedeviled South Asia, and prevented the region from realizing its true potential. “Our government is keen to pursue a policy of partnership for peace, security and prosperity in our immediate neighborhood and beyond,” he said.

He said he was set to meet Swaraj, but New Delhi suddenly called off the dialogue, using the pretext of stamps issued months ago, before the new government in Islamabad took over.

Referring to the long-standing dispute over Kashmir, Qureshi said, for over seventy years now, it has remained on the agenda of the UN Security Council and a blot on the conscience of humanity. “There can be no lasting peace in South Asia without a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute based on the UN Security Council resolutions and the will of the Kashmiri people,” he asserted.

He went on to accuse India of financing, facilitating and orchestrating terrorism in Pakistan. “We wanted to sit with India to discuss all issues, including terrorism, that have created violence in our cities and towns, and have led to tens of thousands of casualties of innocent Pakistanis,” he added.

“We have in our custody a serving Indian Naval officer, Commander Kalbhushan Yadav, who has provided us with the most incriminating evidence by accepting that he, on the instructions of his government, financed, planned and executed acts of terrorism and violence in Pakistan,” he said, calling him “an Indian state-sponsored terrorist”.

Just a few days ago, in an interview with a foreign news channel, Qureshi said the new government in Pakistan had inherited strained relations with India and was working to improve them. Referring to Imran Khan’s July 26 peace offer to India, Qureshi said that seeking a constructive dialogue with India was a key component of the new government’s policies.

“What we did…we thought made sense. Two neighbours with outstanding issues, atomic powers. How do you fix things? War is no option. There is no military solution: the only solution is a dialogue,” he said. But, within a matter of few days, the language has changed, so has the policy of engagement.

On Sunday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi also jumped into the fray, saying India was committed to peace but not at the cost of compromising self-respect and unity of the country.

“People of India celebrated Parakram Parv to mark the second anniversary of surgical strikes conducted two years ago. Our soldiers had given a befitting reply to those who are involved in a proxy war against India through acts of terrorism,” PM Modi said. “We believe in peace and we are committed to it, but it will not happen at the cost of the self-respect and unity of the country. India has always been committed to peace.”

With the war of words escalating sharply, the peace process between India and Pakistan has been put on the backburner once again. It will take a Herculean effort to bring them back on the table.

MNA/TT

News Code 138289

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