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Addressing the Indian army and air force in Leh in Kashmir on Tuesday, Narendra Modi had said: “The neighbouring country has lost strength to fight a conventional war but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism”. Photo: PTI
Addressing the Indian army and air force in Leh in Kashmir on Tuesday, Narendra Modi had said: “The neighbouring country has lost strength to fight a conventional war but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism”. Photo: PTI

India, Pakistan in war of words on terrorism

Pakistan dismisses Narendra Modi's Kashmir proxy war claims; India says he was only voicing the country's 'core concern'

New Delhi: A war of words has broken out between India and Pakistan over the issue of terrorism, with Islamabad on Wednesday taking umbrage at comments made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that it was carrying on a “proxy war of terrorism." India retaliated, saying Modi was only voicing India’s “core concern."

The sharp exchange comes less than two weeks before foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan sit down for talks in Islamabad on 25 August to explore ways to carry forward their peace dialogue. Seen as “talks about talks", it will be the first meeting of the foreign secretaries in two years and flows from the meeting between Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New Delhi on the occasion of Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on 26 May.

In a speech to Indian airforce and army personnel in Leh in the Kashmir region— disputed between India and Pakistan—Modi had on Tuesday slammed Pakistan saying: “The neighbouring country has lost strength to fight a conventional war but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism..."

Reacting to the comment, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said that the “press reports of Indian accusations, at the highest political level, are most unfortunate, especially as the leadership of Pakistan wishes to establish good neighbourly relations with India.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India in May was in this spirit and generated a fresh momentum in the bilateral relationship. It would be in the larger interest of the regional peace that instead of engaging in a blame game, the two countries should focus on resolving all issues through dialogue and work together to promote friendly and cooperative relations," Aslam said in the statement.

She also added that Pakistan had lost the lives of 55,000 of its citizens as a result of militants attacks within Pakistan and was a partner of the international community in its fight against terrorism.

The Pakistani statement drew a strong response from Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin, who described terrorism as a “clear and present danger" for India. “The prime minister was articulating what is for us a core concern in our relations with Pakistan. Mere denials or selective approaches towards terrorism are not going to drive away our concerns," Akbaruddin said.

He recalled the 13 December 2001 attack on India’s Parliament complex that was blamed on Pakistan-based rebel groups the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the November 26-29 2008 Mumbai terror attack carried out by 10 militants belonging to the LeT.

When asked whether Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries would meet on 25 August despite this exchange, Akbaruddin said the meeting followed the directive from the two prime ministers to be in touch and “look at the way forward in bilateral relations.

“India will in any case address our concerns on terrorism through all means that are available to us. Our toolkit is not restricted in any manner," he said.

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