Speaking at the UN General Assembly’s annual session, India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj was expected to respond to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s speech in which he drew the international community’s attention to her country’s gross human rights abuses in Kashmir as well as its incessant violations of the Line of Control (LoC). But not in the fashion she did, hurling such infantile taunts as that “we produced scholars, doctors, engineers… you have produced terrorists” going on to term Pakistan a “preeminent export factory for terror.” Which prompted Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Dr Maliha Lodhi to exercise her right of reply and hold a mirror up to Swaraj reminding her that “the state terrorism which the Indian National Security Advisor [Ajit Doval] has boasted is being sponsored by India’s spy agencies in Pakistan’s Balochistan province in what he called a ‘double squeeze’ strategy’.” The “so-called largest democracy”, she said, is the world’s “largest hypocrisy” ruled by a government in which racist and fascist ideology is firmly embedded – a description borne out by the fact that the country is ruled by an ultra religious extremist Narendra Modi who presided over an anti-Muslim pogrom as chief minister of Gujarat state, earning Western countries opprobrium as well as denial of visas until he came to power in New Delhi.
More importantly, Ambassador Lodhi sought to draw the world leaders’ attention to India’s brutal repression in Kashmir where over 100,000 people have lost their lives; more are dying on a daily basis while dozens have been rendered blind by Indian security forces’ use of pellet guns, and thousands are ‘missing’. It is pertinent to recall here that aside from various international rights groups, the UN Secretary-General as well as the chief of the UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly expressed concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in the disputed territory. The UN must also find a way to stop the atrocities. As Dr Lodhi pointed out, “in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, that obligation is explicit since the UN Security Council has been involved with the dispute since its very inception; and because the Council has prescribed very specifically and precisely how the dispute should be resolved.”
It’s been an annual ritual at the UNGA session for Pakistani and Indian leaders to iterate their respective positions on the core issue of dispute between them, Kashmir, and then move on. The verbal duel this time is reflective of the dangerous level of tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals. US President Donald Trump’s recently-announced policy of giving India a paramount role in the region’s affairs seems to have emboldened New Delhi to continue with its campaign of bloody repression in Kashmir as well as repeated violations of the LoC and the Working Boundary – over 872 in the current year have claimed more than 40 civilian lives and injured about 142 others. Escalating violence can easily lead to eruption of an all-out conflict leading to disastrous consequences. Sanity therefore suggests India’s friends, the US in particular, tell New Delhi to calm down, end rights abuses in Kashmir and resolve all outstanding issues of dispute with Pakistan at the negotiating table.