New York: In an unusual face-off, Indian and Pakistani diplomats engaged in heated exchanges in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) over Jammu and Kashmir.
The sharp exchanges of words started after deputy envoy of Pakistan to UN charged India with sponsoring terrorism in the neighbouring countries. This led to Indians attacking Islamabad for raising Kashmir to deflect attention from its internal problems which needed to be addressed for the common good of Pakistanis, and thereby the entire region.
The Pakistan side appeared to have come with prepared remarks on many of these contentious issues, while Indians seemed to have taken off-guard initially and did not offer comments on specific allegations raised by the other side.
"The Indian government is well advised to take careful stock of its own policies and conduct that includes supporting terrorist elements in neighbouring countries which contributes to the problems facing South Asia," said Amjad Hussain B Sial, deputy envoy of Pakistan to the UN.
"India is also the country which conceived, created and nurtured the most lethal terrorist organisation, which introduced suicide bombings in our region. Still India has the nerves to give lectures on morality to others," he said in an indirect reference to LTTE.
These charges by Islamabad came hours after External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, at the UN yesterday, slammed Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism and militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and said it should not impart lessons to New Delhi on democracy and human rights.
Reacting sharply to Sial`s remarks, Manish Gupta, a diplomat in the Indian Mission to the UN, said "Such unsolicited and untenable remarks will not and indeed, cannot divert attention from the multiple problems Pakistan needs to tackle for the common good of its people, and indeed of the entire region."
"Pakistan should seriously concentrate on addressing the enormous challenges confronting it: terrorism, extremism and sectarianism, to name a few and the dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure that exists on territory under its control," Gupta said.
The confrontation at the UN happened after more than a week of critical remarks and retaliations from both sides, which scuttled any possibility of an Indo-Pak bilateral on the sidelines of the opening session of the General Assembly.
While India and Pakistan have often exchanged barbs at the UN over the issue of Kashmir and terrorism, several observers noted that the language of this exchange was much stronger than what had been used in nearly a decade.
Krishna, in his address at the UN yesterday, said "Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India, is the target of Pakistan-sponsored militancy and terrorism. Pakistan must fulfil its solemn commitment of not allowing territory under its control to be used for terrorism directed against India."
Referring to the minister`s statement, Sial said "The Indian Minister of External Affairs has once again made the self-serving claim that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Nothing could be far from reality and truth." Sial also pointed out that 700,000 Indian security forces were deployed in Kashmir and described it as "the
largest concentration of troops anywhere in the world."
"One wonders if such a huge concentration armed with Armed Forces Special Powers Act (is) giving Kashmiris lessons on pluralism and democracy," Sial said.
Responding to that, Gupta said "Free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir have been regularly held and the people of Jammu and Kashmir have exercised their right to franchise to elect their representatives."
Pakistan and India responded to each other two times each, with India finally saying, "We reject all untenable and unsolicited remarks from the distinguished delegate of Pakistan."