New Delhi: The diplomatic showdown between India and Pakistan shifts to a new stage—New York—from Wednesday with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expected to raise the Kashmir dispute as well as New Delhi’s alleged human rights record when he addresses the 71st United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session.
Sharif’s comments are only expected to further vitiate the tense atmosphere between India and Pakistan; bilateral ties are already at a low following Sunday’s terrorist attack in the border town of Uri where four Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists stormed an Indian Army garrison, killing 18 soldiers.
India-Pakistan ties have been in free fall since Islamabad described Burhan Wani, a terrorist belonging to the Hizbul Mujahideen group who was shot dead by Indian security forces, as a “martyr” and a “Kashmiri leader”. Pakistan has been vociferously highlighting what it calls are human rights violations in Kashmir, riling India.
Some 86 people have been killed and many injured in the unrest that followed Wani’s killing.
The Pakistan foreign office has said that Sharif, in his address scheduled for late Wednesday, will “specifically focus on the current situation, particularly the continuing grave violations of human rights” by Indian troops in Kashmir.
He is also expected to call on the international community to “live up to their promise of the right to self-determination” of the Kashmiri people.
Countering Sharif will be foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, who is expected to leave for New York on Saturday. Assisting her will be minister of state for foreign affairs M.J. Akbar, who is in New York. He will also be taking part in a South Asian foreign ministers’ meet on the sidelines of the UNGA on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, met the foreign ministers of Japan, Austria and Switzerland on the sidelines of UNGA session, according to a Pakistan foreign ministry statement.
“Aziz also briefed his counterparts on Pakistan-India relations. Highlighting human rights abuses perpetrated by Indian security forces with impunity in Indian Kashmir, he stated that settlement of Jammu and Kashmir dispute... was essential for peace and stability of South Asia,” the statement added.
India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads for decades over Kashmir. India says cross-border terrorism is the core issue between Pakistan and India. Islamabad says Kashmir is the key problem.
Swaraj is scheduled to speak at the UNGA on Monday. Her speech is expected to focus on Pakistan’s support to terrorist organizations targeting India and plotting of terrorist attacks against India.
Sunday’s terrorist attack in Uri as well as other terrorist attacks that India says have been planned and executed by Pakistan-based terrorist groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed are expected to figure prominently in India’s response.
Swaraj could also refer to Pakistan’s human rights violations in Balochistan in her speech. It will follow from Prime Minister Narendra Modi referring to the issue twice last month. India has already made a mention of Pakistan’s human rights record in Balochistan at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last week—a move considered rare by Indian analysts.
According to former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, “attacks by Pakistan on India and Kashmir have been a perennial feature of Pakistani foreign policy and no one really pays any attention to this. These attacks are essentially meant to satisfy a domestic audience”.
“India has ignored these attacks sometimes, but at other times, has responded—wary of domestic criticism. But no other country has referred to Kashmir in their speech. Other countries, even if not sympathetic to India, know the reality of Pakistan, its support to terrorism in Afghanistan,” he added.