NEW DELHI :
With the UN Human Rights Council beginning it’s session this week in Geneva, Pakistan fired its first salvo at India on Tuesday slamming the restrictions in place in Kashmir as “draconian" and illustrative of “Indian brutality."
In his speech, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Kashmir had been transformed into “the largest prison on this planet," accusing India of having arrested more than 6,000 people without "due process".
Shah is leading the Pakistan delegation and is being assisted by retired former foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua.
India on its part has fielded two seasoned diplomats from New Delhi well-versed with India-Pakistan relations to rebut Pakistan’s charges and accusations about India’s rights record. But a major surprise came in the form of India choosing a young diplomat from Jammu and Kashmir Vimarsh Aryan to counter Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s special statement to the UNHRC.
Here’s a quick look at the profiles of the Indian diplomats taking the fight to the Pakistani camp.
1) Vijay Thakur Singh: Currently, secretary (East), in India’s foreign ministry, Singh is an old Pakistani hand having worked for a decade on Pakistan related matters, first as under secretary, deputy secretary and then director in the then Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan division. An officer of the 1985 batch of the Indian Foreign Service and a post graduate in economics, Singh was part of the Indian delegation that sat down for talks with Pakistan in 1997 when India resumed talks with Pakistan after a gap of more than three years at the direction of then foreign minister Inder Kumar Gujral. Singh has also served in Afghanistan and is credited with working on a project to send fortified protein biscuits for children in Afghanistan. Besides serving as the High Commisioner to Singapore, Singh was also ambassador to Ireland before joining as Secretary East in the foreign office in New Delhi.
On Tuesday, Singh was the one who read out the India country statement at the UNHRC. Many lines of her statement packed a hefty punch. Sample these:
“ These decisions ( on article 370) were taken by our Parliament after a full debate that was televised and enjoyed widespread support. We wish to reiterate that this sovereign decision, like other legislations passed by Parliament, is entirely internal to India. No country can accept interference in its internal affairs, certainly not India," Singh said.
“One delegation has given a running commentary with offensive rhetoric of false allegations and concocted charges against my country. The world is aware that this fabricated narrative comes from the epicentre of global terrorism, where ring leaders were sheltered for years. This nation conducts cross-border terrorism as a form of ‘alternate diplomacy’. My delegation will separately exercise the right to respond," Singh added.
2) Ajay Bisaria: Bisaria was recently in the news for being expelled from Pakistan after Islamabad condemned India’s move to abrogate Article 370. Bisaria, who joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1987, was the Indian ambassador to Poland and Lithuania before taking charge as Indian high commissioner in Islamabad. He received his early education in Mumbai and Delhi. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Delhi’s St Stephen’s College (1980-83), a Master’s in Business Administration from IIM-Kolkata (1983-85), and a Master’s in Public Policy from Princeton University, USA (2008-09). A Russian speaker, Bisaria was posted at the Indian embassy in Moscow (1988-1991). Bisaria also worked as private secretary to former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and also as the joint secretary in charge of Central Asia and Russia in New Delhi. Bisaria has not spoken as yet as the UNHRC but was seen sitting next to Vijay Thakur Singh as she was reading out the India country statement.
3) Vimarsh Aryan: The youngest member of the team taking on Pakistan, Aryan is a 2011 batch Indian Foreign Service Officer who hails from Kishtwar in Jammu. A mechanical engineering student, he is an Arabic language specialist and his first posting was Jordan. He joined India’s permanent mission in Geneva in June. Prior to this, he has served as the regional passport officer in Jammu and also as private secretary to then junior foreign minister V. K Singh. Given that Aryan was responding to Qureshi’s remarks, it was no surprise that his statement was a hard hitting one.
“ We are not surprised at Pakistan’s hysterical statements with false, fabricated narratives aimed to politicize and polarize this forum. Pakistan realises that our recent decision cuts the very ground from under its feet by creating obstacles in its continuing sponsorship of cross border terrorism against India," he said.
Reminding Pakistan of its own record, he said:
“Pakistan has today pretended to speak as the voice of the global community on human rights. But the world cannot be fooled. Pakistan’s gory record speaks for itself. This rhetoric will not distract international attention from Pakistan’s persecution and elimination of religious and ethnic minorities – be it the Christians, Sikhs, Shias, Ahmadiyas and Hindus. This is the reason that Pakistan no longer publishes official statistics about its minorities as India does. Blatant abuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan to persecute minorities is well documented."
“It defies credibility that Pakistan, which is the epicentre of global terrorism is claiming to speak on behalf of unnamed countries on the issue of human rights. It forgets that terrorism is the worst form of human rights abuse," was Aryan’s parting shot.