External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday bluntly told the United Nations General Assembly , “...Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and will always remain so.“
The UN Security Council's resolutions on Kashmir have been repeatedly cited by Pakistan to assert its locus standi in the issue.
Maintaining the high-profile global diplomatic pressure on Islamabad following the Uri attack, Swaraj called out Pakistan for nurturing and harbouring terrorists responsible for attacks worldwide. She linked Pakistan's assaults in Kashmir with the latest bombing in New York, whose perpetrator is reported to ha ve “studied“ at a Pakistani madrassa. In our midst, there are nations that still speak the language of terrorism, that nurture it, peddle it, and export it. To shelter terrorists has become their calling card. We must identify these nations and hold them to account,“ Swaraj said, after referring to Pakistan-inspired attacks only a few minutes from the UN headquarters in New York.
“These nations, in which UN designated terrorists roam freely , lead processions and deliver their poisonous sermons of hate with impunity , are as culpable as the very terrorists they harbor. Such countries should have no place in the comity of nations,“ she said, in a reminder that Pakistan continued to coddle Hafiz Saeed, who heads the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Swaraj's attack came even as a top US General agreed with US defense secretary Ash Carter's decision to withhold $300 million in military support for Pakistan this year, after not being able to certify that it was adequately fighting terrorism.
“It was his way of saying that there's not adequate pressure being put on the Haqqanis,“ General John Nicholson, the US commander in Afghanistan, said at a Pentagon briefing. “And I concur with the Secretary's assessment on that.“
But the arc of Swaraj's sweep was wider, covering Pakistani terrorist depredations from New York to Uri, as she cited the “blood and tears of innocent victims,“ from attacks this year alone in Kabul and Dhaka, Istanbul and Mogadishu, Brussels and Bangkok, Paris and Pathankot.
Calling terrorism the “biggest violation of human rights.... a crime against humanity ,“ Swaraj challenged the Pakistani narrative on Kashmir centering around India's purported oppression, asking “those accusing others of human rights violations would do well to introspect and see what egregious abuses they are perpetrating in their own country , including in Balochistan. The brutality against the Baloch people represents the worst form of State oppression.“
It is possibly the first time India is raising the Balochistan issue at the UN forum, representing a sharp escalation in the battle to shape perceptions on human rights violation. In fact, in an implicit counter to Pakistan's allegations that it had apprehended an Indian agent fomenting violence in Pakistan, Swaraj named Bahadur Ali, “a terrorist in our custody, whose confession is a living proof of Pakistan's complicity in cross-border terror.“
“But when confronted with such evidence, Pakistan remains in denial. It persists in the belief that such attacks will enable it to obtain the territory it covets. My firm advice to Pakistan is: abandon this dream,“ she said.
But even amid the attack, Swaraj offered an olive branch to Pakistan, countering its prime minister Nawaz Sharif 's assertion that New Delhi had imposed preconditions for talks.
“What preconditions?“ she asked, reminding Islamabad of several unconditional initiatives and visits by Indians leaders, including by Prime Minister Modi and herself.
Then, she told the General Assembly in a message that was aimed also at Pakistan: “We need to forget our prejudices and join hands together to script an effecti ve strategy against terror. This is not an impossible task provided we have the will. Otherwise our future generations will forever hold us to account.“
Swaraj's counter-attack mar ked one of the most testy encounters between the two sides at the UN in a year in which they not only forsook any dialogue on its margins, but also ignored each other's receptions and other protocol niceties.
While Pakistani leaders and officials boasted that they had raised the profile of the Kashmir issue in a big way (mainly for the benefit of audiences back home), the effort visibly fell flat, with few countries evincing any interest in the matter that is seen as a bilateral issue, with a UN resolution on it being non-binding and infructuous.
World leaders ranging from Barack Obama to the UN secretary-general made no mention of the issue in their remarks, and Pakistan's efforts to suggest it had the support of China, Turkey , and Gulf leaders, were not borne out by statements from them.
On the margins, critics of Pakistan's obsession with Kashmir sneer that it is only a “revenue stream“ for Pakistani generals and elites--and their proxies in the state--by pronouncing it as “cash mere“.
On its part, New Delhi, led by the new minister of state for external affairs, M J Akbar, and its UN envoy Syed Akbaruddin, is pressing forward with its outreach among Gulf and Islamic countries to counter Pakistan's push. India's UN mission conspicuously sent out photos of meetings and engagements with Gulf leaders and delegates amid the India-Pakistan spat.