Thaw turns into acrimony at UN

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat had promised to become a thaw in Indo-Pak relations by way of informal talks between Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly ultimately turned into a full-scale diplomatic offensive between the two countries inside the Assembly hall. India had taken early lead by announcing cancellation of the informal talks to protest against Islamabad releasing a stamp in memory Burhan Wani, the slain leader of Kashmiri terrorist outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, followed by the barbaric act of killing a BSF jawan and mutilating his body. Sushma Swaraj took the advantage to the UN by accusing Pakistan of ‘glorifying killers’ and harbouring terrorists. “In our case, terrorism is bred not in some faraway land, but across our border to the west,” Swaraj said. “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,” she thundered.

Pak Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tried to turn the tables on India by accusing New Delhi of sabotaging the peace process by calling off the proposed meeting between the two foreign ministers in the wake of new premier Imran Khan’s letter to PM Modi. He then went on to attack India for practising terrorism as “an instrument of state policy.” He also accused India of supporting terrorists in his country, describing the attack on an army school in the north-western city of Peshawar in 2014 that killed more than 150 children as the handiwork of “terrorists supported by India”. But the Pak charge lacked the kind of persuasive power of the Pakistani involvement in the bloody Mumbai terror attack and the assault on Parliament House.

The international media took note of the clash between the two South Asian neighbours, stopping short of assigning scoring points to either side. But Sushma Swaraj’s description of Pakistan as the country that gave refuge to Osama bin Laden appeared to have struck a chord as the world understands Osama better than all the actors that followed him and are claiming his legacy. Osama is universally recognised as the sworn enemy of mankind. Thanks to the Osama connection, Pakistan’s tag as the global capital of terrorism has stuck and India’s efforts to take this message to the world have found success.

Further proof of the build-up of tension between the two countries has come with Modi in his latest Mann ki Baat broadcast issuing a stern warning to Pakistan that India is committed to peace but it will not happen at the cost of compromising self respect and unity of the country. That the warning has come on the occasion of the second anniversary of the surgical strike by Indian forces against targets deep across the border is particularly significant.