At the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Saturday, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj did not hold back in criticizing Pakistan for its role in being an “export factory of terror”.
In one scathing section of her remarks she highlighted India’s contribution to the world in the form of scholars and doctors contrasting that with Pakistan saying in part, “We established scientific and technical institutions which are the pride of the world. But what has Pakistan offered to the world and indeed to its own people apart from terrorism? We produced scholars, doctors, engineers. What have you produced? You have produced terrorists”. The speech was hailed by the Prime Minister who tweeted his appreciation –
She also referenced a December 9th 2015 meeting in Islamabad at the Heart of Asia conference where an agreement with then still Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was called the "Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue". She pointed out the process and proposal did not come to fruition because “Pakistan is responsible for the aborting that peace process”.
In a column for the Economic Times, journalist Seema Sirohi writes on how Sushma Swaraj’s speech at the UN shows India is playing a vital role in speaking up about terrorism –
“India doesn’t seem perturbed by Trump breaking the sacred rules of the game. India’s positions are evolving without giving up on the old. The main reason: the status quo didn’t help India much, but disruption creates opportunities. No doubt, there will be difficulties along the way”.
The Economic Times editorial stated her speech had strong rebukes towards Pakistan but also went beyond that which was necessary –
“Her address also included a well-directed counter to Pakistan and its charges against India, under the Right of Reply provision of the UN. Swaraj’s articulation of Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror was necessary and important especially given the high priority given by the UN to tackling terrorism”.
“Pakistan has come to dominate India’s UNGA address. In part, it is driven by the need to counter Pakistan’s efforts at the UN. That is unlikely to change. There is more to India’s world view and foreign policy than Pakistan. Swaraj spoke on critical challenges like climate change, migration”
Earlier, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi made aggressive remarks stating that they demand an investigation into India’s crimes in Kashmir “to verify the nature and extent of India’s human rights violations, secure the punishment of those responsible and provide justice and relief to the victims”.
India in a strongly worded response right after, hit back by questioning how Pakistan could be the victim when they are the county that provided a safe haven for Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar. The statement went on to call Pakistan, ‘Terroristan’ stating, “Pakistan has become a geography synonymous with terror”. Pakistani media unsurprisingly did not take too kindly to the remarks made by India. The Nation editorial called the remarks by Sushma Swaraj knee-jerk and stated that the facts were twisted –
“To the comments of PM Abbasi, came a knee-jerk response from New Delhi. Sushma Swaraj in an attempt to twist the facts and conceal the history of Indian interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan argued that Pakistan had given the world ‘terrorist’ whereas India served the humanity as it produced doctors and engineers”.
“Relying on the art of rhetoric, common in declamation contests in schools, Sushma Swaraj asked Pakistan if it had ever produced scholars, doctors or scientist of international repute. She forgets how intellectuals are treated back home. She conveniently forgot the confessions of the Indian spy Khulbushan Jadhav, and the human rights violations by the Indian army in Kashmir”
“One thing is clear despite all this friction and hostility towards each other that the solution to all our shared problems lies in the process of dialogue. If the European states can put aside their differences and resolve their territorial disputes, why can’t India and Pakistan take the same road?”
The Dawn editorial called Sushma Swaraj’s speech and unnecessary and excessive attack, calling it ‘Trumpian’ and stated that a war of words at the UN was not the answer –
“Ms Swaraj’s bizarre taunt and allegation marked a rhetorical escalation in India’s seemingly renewed quest to try and put pressure on Pakistan regionally and globally”.
“The Indian foreign minister’s Trumpian rhetoric indicates that India is in no mood to engage in dialogue with Pakistan and will continue to try and deflect the world’s attention from the oppression of the Kashmiri people in India-held Kashmir. A war of words with India may please nationalist sentiment, but it may also cause further damage to Pakistan’s legitimate interests”.
On Sunday, Pakistan responded by calling India the “Mother of Terrorism in South Asia”. Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi, urged the international community to act against India if there was to be no further escalation between the two countries.
She brought a picture of a girl with injuries to her face adding, “This was the face of Indian democracy” referencing those injured in Kashmir. The gesture however backfired as the picture used was of a 17 year old injured in air strikes in Gaza city in 2014.
Their view was that while India keeps mentioning terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, they were ignoring the core issue which is Kashmir. The Deccan Chronicle editorial lauded Sushma Swaraj’s speech but stated that India must broaden its horizons –
“Ms Swaraj’s speech, full of allegories on India’s development in education, science and IT, in contrast to its stark lack of it across the border, shouldn’t be seen in isolation but as part of a chain in which Pakistan was at the receiving end”.
“So shrill has the issue of terror and Pakistan as a unique “Terroristan” haven become that India seems to have forgotten its larger international role, and its duty to help resolve the greater concerns of the planet. Much else of what the minister said may have been drowned in the rhetoric on Pakistan’s terror factories”.
With respect to broadening the horizons; Sushma Swaraj attended multiple bi-lateral meetings to assert India’s authority on the global stage and as a major player in Asia.
More columns by Varun Sukumar