Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. Photo: HT
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. Photo: HT

Terrorism, climate change biggest threats facing the world: India at UN

Under-developed and developing nations are the worst victims of climate change, says Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in her speech to the UN General Assembly

New Delhi: Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday launched a broadside against Pakistan for what she described as its “commitment" to use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy and its verbal duplicity in masking its role as a sponsor of terrorism.

In her speech to the UN General Assembly, Swaraj who listed climate change alongside terrorism as two of the biggest “existential threats" facing the world, also made a strong case for reforming the world body, warning that “the importance, influence, respect and value" accorded to the institution had begun to “ebb."

Pakistan a spawning ground for terrorism

A significant section of Swaraj’s speech was, however, focused on terrorism emanating from Pakistan — slamming the country by name for being a “spawning ground for terrorism" and a violator of human rights due to its support of the menace. “Our neighbour’s expertise is not restricted to spawning grounds for terrorism; it is also an expert in trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity," Swaraj said.

“The most startling evidence of this duplicity was the fact that Osama Bin Laden, the architect and ideologue of 9/11 was given safe haven in Pakistan," she added.

“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," she said, adding, “Pakistan’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 the streets of Pakistan with impunity."

According to Swaraj, it was “heartening" to note that the “world is no longer ready to believe Islamabad. FATF (Financial Action Task Force, set up in 1989 to combat money laundering, and expanded to include combating terrorist financing in 2001,) for instance, has put Pakistan on notice over terror funding," she said.

India not sabotaging attempts to find peace

On Pakistan’s charge that India was sabotaging its moves for peace talks, Swaraj dismissed it as a “complete lie."

“We believe that talks are the only rational means to resolve the most complex of disputes. Talks with Pakistan have begun many times. If they stopped, it was only because of Pakistan’s behaviour. There have been many governments in India, by many different parties. Each government has tried the peace option," Swaraj said, recalling that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited all South Asian heads of state and government for his inauguration in May 2014, including then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“On 9th December 2016, I personally went to Islamabad and offered a comprehensive bilateral dialogue. But soon after, Pakistan sponsored terrorists attacked our Air Force base in Pathankot on 2nd January (2016). Please explain to me how we could pursue talks in the midst of terrorist bloodshed? Even now, after the new government came to power, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote to Prime Minister Modi suggesting a meeting between foreign ministers in New York. We accepted the proposal. But, within hours of our acceptance, news came that terrorists had killed three of our jawans. Does this indicate a desire for dialogue?," Swaraj said.

On 21 September, India called off peace talks with Pakistan, a day after it had accepted the proposal in protest against the killing of three of its security personnel and the glorification of terrorist Burhan Wani by Pakistan. Wani was killed by Indian troops in July 2016.

Pakistan transgressor of human rights

On Pakistan’s accusations of human rights violations in Kashmir, Swaraj slammed the allegations by saying : “Who can be a greater transgressor of human rights than a terrorist?"

“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," Swaraj said in comments made just hours after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres on the sidelines of the ongoing General Assembly session. A statement from the Pakistan foreign office on Saturday said it had “highlighted the plight of the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir" — as Pakistan refers to the region of Kashmir under Indian administration.

“He (Qureshi) stressed on peaceful resolution of the (Kashmir) dispute, reflecting the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions is important. He also called on the secretary-general to play his role in the resolution of the dispute," the Pakistani statement said, adding, Qureshi stressed “Pakistan’s desire to engage with India for lasting peace in the region."

Define terrorism, pass CCIT

Swaraj also used the opportunity to urge the world body to back the India initiated Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism (CCIT) languishing without agreement at the UN since 1996.

“Till today, that draft (CCIT) has remained a draft, because we cannot agree on a common language. On 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 by a country that remains a member of the United Nations. Cruelty and barbarism are advertised as heroism. The country prints postage stamps glorifying terrorists. 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 as one of the necessary measures in a long running war," Swaraj said.

Climate change

On climate change, Swaraj said underdeveloped and developing nations were “the worst victims" of the problem, adding, “they neither had the capacity nor the resources to meet this crisis."

“Those who have exploited nature for their immediate needs cannot abdicate their responsibilities. If we have to save the world from the adverse effects of climate change, developed nations must lift the deprived with financial and technical resources," Swaraj said.

Reform the UN to make it relevant

On reforming the UN, Swaraj said the UN must accept that it needed to make “fundamental" and far reaching changes to the “head and heart" of the institution 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," Swaraj said.

“The UN cannot be run by the ‘I’, it only works by the ‘We’" she said, adding, “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."

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