New Delhi, Sept. 17: Pakistan on Friday night threatened to escalate an increasingly bitter subcontinental debate over terrorism and killings in Kashmir by highlighting alleged human rights violations by India in Manipur, Mizoram and Assam at the UN, after New Delhi accused Islamabad of excesses in Balochistan.
Amid a continuing tit-for-tat at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ajit Kumar, India’s permanent representative there, had yesterday evening iterated allegations of human rights violations in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
He had also referred to Balochistan in statements to the council on Thursday, in a feisty exchange with his Pakistan counterpart who had criticised India for the death of over 80 people in clashes between security forces and protesters in Kashmir since July.
But after Kumar spoke yesterday, a Pakistan delegate to the council countered him by referring to challenges India has faced in its Northeast and against Naxalites in its heartland.
“Over one third of Indian territory is under a full blown peasant insurgency,” the Pakistan foreign office quoted the delegate as saying. “There is a despicable human rights situation in Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Assam, and ethnic groups in India’s north-east have been battling for rights since many decades in the face of terrible repression.”
New Delhi has long accused Islamabad — in connivance with China — of funding and arming militant groups in its north-east, where it battled insurgent movements for decades, and is still negotiating lasting peace deals with groups in many states. In the 1980s and 1990s, India also used to accuse Pakistan of funding the movement in Punjab for the separate nation of Khalistan.
Pakistan has, in turn, repeatedly accused India of sponsoring, funding and arming the Baloch separatist movement, and over the past decade and a half has frequently submitted “dossiers” to New Delhi alleging “evidence” of its role in Balochistan.
But Pakistan had so far never accused of Indian human rights abuses in the Northeast at a UN platform, even though it has publicly expressed concerns over alleged violations in Assam and Manipur in the past.
Pakistan has also never cited the Naxalite crisis in central India as a blot on New Delhi at the UN. This approach, a veteran Indian diplomat said, was a part of an unstated understanding that India, while bilaterally — and publicly — articulating concerns over Pakistan’s alleged human rights abuses in Balochistan, would also refrain from doing so at the UN.
That understanding, Indian and Pakistani officials said on Saturday evening, had clearly fallen through, with New Delhi’s calculation that it can respond to Islamabad’s criticism over the Kashmir deaths by highlighting rights abuses in Balochistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who celebrated his 66th birthday today, had last month told an all-party meeting that the time had come for “Pakistan to answer” for its human rights abuses in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Balochistan.
While the reference to PoK was not a break with tradition, the Prime Minister’s comments on Balochistan offered the first hint of a change in approach.
Modi killed any doubts about the shift days later, when in his Independence Day address, he referred to wishes he had received from Balochistan following his comments.
In Geneva last night, Pakistan tried to draw a distinction between Kashmir, over which the South Asian neighbours have fought three wars, and conflicts and alleged human rights abuses in other parts of both countries — whether Balochistan or India’s Northeast.
Pakistan contended that it had traditionally focused on alleged rights violations in Kashmir — and not other parts of India — as the dispute there was recognised internationally, in UN resolutions.
Kumar, however, responded to Pakistan’s charge by pointing out that Islamabad too had not fulfilled its commitments under UN resolutions on Kashmir to first withdraw from the parts of the state it occupied in 1948.
He also again referred to Balochistan.
Earlier this week, foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup had said India would continue to criticise Pakistan at the UN over human rights abuses in Balochistan, till the alleged excesses stop.
All India Radio this week also launched a mobile application that allows listeners across the world to listen to its Balochi service.
News Source: The Telegraph