At UN, India warns of ‘conflagration’ over Pak actions

If we do not act now, we will have to deal with conflagration later, India’s external affairs minister SushmaSwaraj warned the world leaders on Saturday as she renewed New Delhi’s calls for “international action against terrorism” while launching a scathing attack on Pakista
At UN, India warns of ‘conflagration’ over Pak actions
File Photo

If we do not act now, we will have to deal with conflagration later, India's external affairs minister SushmaSwaraj warned the world leaders on Saturday as she renewed New Delhi's calls for "international action against terrorism" while launching a scathing attack on Pakistan.

Speaking in Hindi at the 73rd UN general assembly, Swaraj said: "The demon of terrorism now stalks the world, at a faster pace somewhere, a slower pace elsewhere, but life-threatening everywhere. In our case, terrorism is bred not in some faraway land, but across our border to the west."

"The killers of 9/11 met their fate; but the mastermind of 26/11 Hafiz Saeed still roams the streets of Pakistan with impunity," she said, accusing Pakistan of "duplicity" and "hypocrisy," citing the "shelter Islamabad gave to Osama bin Laden."

"What America perhaps could not comprehend was that Osama would get sanctuary in a country that claimed to be America's friend and ally: Pakistan. Eventually, America's intelligence services discovered the truth of this hypocrisy, and its special forces delivered justice," she said.

She called for going beyond listing terrorists for sanctions by the UN and taking on their protectors.

Calling for international action against terrorists and nations protecting them, she said, "Each year, for last five years, India has been arguing from this podium that lists are not enough to check terrorists and their protectors. We need to bring them to accountability through international law."

She called for the early adoption of "one of the necessary measures in a long running war," the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, which was proposed by India in 1996 and has been stalled because UN members can't agree on a definition of terrorism.

The convention would outlaw terrorism under all guises and legally require nations to not aid terrorists.

Swaraj said, "On the one hand, we want to fight terrorism; on the other, we cannot define it. This is why terrorists with a price on their head are celebrated, finances (sic) and armed as liberation heroes by a country that remains a member of the United Nations. Cruelty and barbarism are advertised as heroism."

She drew attention to Pakistan printing postage stamps glorifying militants—one of the factors that India said led to cancellation of a meeting between her and Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Swaraj called accusations by Pakistan that India was "sabotaging the process of talks" between them "a complete lie."

"We believe that talks are the only rational means to resolve the most complex of disputes," she said.

Many Indian governments under different parties tried to hold talks and pursue a peace process, but "if they stopped, it was only because of Pakistan's behaviour," she said.

She recalled that in December 2016, "I personally went to Islamabad and offered a comprehensive bilateral dialogue. But soon after, Pak-sponsored militants attacked our air force base in Pathankot on 2nd January."

"Please explain to me how we could pursue talks in the midst of terrorist bloodshed," she asked.

"Talks with Pakistan have begun many times. If they stopped, it was only because of Pakistan's behaviour," she said.

The minister told the world body that after assuming power, Pakistan's new Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote to Prime Minister NarendraModi suggesting a meeting between the countries' foreign ministers on the margins of the General Assembly. India accepted the proposal but, within hours of its acceptance, news came that militants had killed three policemen in Kashmir, she said, referring to abduction and killing of three policemen in Kashmir's Shopian district on September 21.

"Does this indicate a desire for dialogue," Swaraj asked.

In a reply to Pakistan's accusations of human rights violations by India, she asked, "Who can be a greater transgressor of human rights than a terrorist?"

She said, "Those who take innocent human lives in pursuit of war by other means are defenders of inhuman behaviour, not of human rights. Pakistan glorifies killers; it refuses to see the blood of innocents."

"It has become something of a habit with Pakistan to throw the dust of deceit and deception against India in order to provide some thin cover for its own guilt," Swaraj said.

"Islamabad'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 on the streets of Pakistan with impunity," Swaraj said, adding that "what is heartening is that the world is no longer ready to believe Islamabad. FATF, for instance, has put Pakistan on notice over terror funding."

She said the United Nations has seen this before. "Last year, Pakistan's representative, using her right to reply, displayed some photographs as 'proof of human rights violations' by India. The photographs turned out to be from another country. Similar false accusations have become a part of its standard rhetoric," Swaraj said.

'NEW INDIA'

She also said that in 2022, free India will be 75 years old and "Prime Minister NarendraModi has pledged to build a New India by then. This New India will be: Clean India, Healthy India; Prosperous India, Secure India; Educated India, Developed India; Energised India, Strong India."

"That is our horizon for India in 2022. We will reach that horizon," she said.

'CLIMATE CHANGE, TERRORISM BIGGEST CHALLENGES'

The biggest challenge of our era comes from the "existential threats of climate change and terrorism", Swaraj said, adding that under-developed and developing nations are the worst victim of climate change.

"I had described terrorism as the second existential threat to humanity. We imagined that the arrival of the 21st Century would bring with it an age of common good, defined by cooperation in the quest for peace and prosperity. But here in New York, the horrific tragedy of 9/11, and in Mumbai the catastrophe of 26/11 became the nightmares that shattered our dreams. The demon of terrorism now stalks the world, at a faster pace somewhere, a slower pace elsewhere, but life-threatening everywhere," she said.

"The country (Pakistan) prints postage stamps glorifying militants. If we do not act now, we will have to deal with conflagration later. Once again, I appeal to this august body to come to an agreement, soon, on CCIT (comprehensive convention on international terrorism) as one of the necessary measures in a long running war."

"We have to make this assembly into a platform of understanding, assistance and true justice. We have to understand the pain of other nations, and work with developed nations to ease and eliminate this pain. Arrogance has no place in our scheme of things; arrogance is counter-productive and self-defeating. Let us work for the benefit of the less fortunate. Let us work for a world where there is peace, serenity and shared prosperity; a world that is free from terrorism, tension and violence," Swaraj said.

 'UN LOSING RESPECT'

Swaraj said the United Nations is in need of "urgent reforms" because "the influence, respect and value of this institution is beginning to ebb."

Highlighting what she called the "unique and positive role" of the UN, she said, "I however must add that step by slow step, the importance, influence, respect and value of this institution is beginning to ebb."

"Reform cannot be cosmetic. We need change the institution's head and heart to make both compatible to contemporary reality. Reform must begin today; tomorrow could be too late. If the UN is ineffective, the whole concept of multilateralism will collapse. In this session, there has been much debate about multilateralism," she said.

"India does not believe that the United Nations should become the instrument of a few at the cost of the many. India believes that we must move forward together or we sink into the swamp of stagnation," Swaraj said.

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