External Affairs

Targeting India in UN Speech, Nawaz Sharif Turns Kashmir Rhetoric Up

In a red rag to the Indian government, Sharif spoke of the “murder” of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, whom he described as a “young leader”. India hits back, says this shows Pakistan’s “continued attachment to terrorism.”

Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif speaking at the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2016. Credit: Geo TV screengrab

Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif speaking at the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2016. Credit: Geo TV screengrab

Mounting one of Pakistan’s sharpest attacks against India in recent years, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday told the UN General Assembly that an “independent inquiry” into “extra-judicial killings” in Kashmir he held and a United Nations fact-finding mission be sent to curb “brutalities”  by the “Indian occupying forces” in the state.

Around half of Sharif’s 20-minute speech to the world body was devoted in one way or the other to India – especially the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which he described as an “intifada” for freedom and self-determination. But the speech also dwelt on Pakistan’s opposition to any attempt to “create new centres of privilege ” in the UN  – a reference to the Indian quest for a permanent seat in the Security Council – its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (for which he said Pakistan is “fully eligible”), and its offer to sign a bilateral nuclear test ban treaty with India.

In a red rag to the Indian government, Sharif spoke of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter with Indian security forces on July 8, 2016. Calling Wani a “young leader murdered by Indian forces”, the Pakistani prime minister said he had “emerged as the symbol of the latest Kashmiri Intifada, a popular and peaceful freedom movement…” “Pakistan will share with the Secretary General a dossier containing detailed information and evidence of the gross and systematic violations of human rights committed” in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan “fully supports the demand of the Kashmiri people for self-determination”, said Sharif. “The Security Council has called for the exercise of the right to self-determination by the people of Jammu and Kashmir through a free and fair plebiscite held under UN auspices. The people of Kashmir have waited 70 years for implementation of this promise,” he said, adding that the UN must act on its promises..

At the same time Sharif said his country was ready for a “serious and sustained dialogue” with India for peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, especially Jammu and Kashmir. “Today, from this rostrum, I would also like to reiterate our offer to India to enter into a serious and sustained dialogue for the peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, especially Jammu and Kashmir.”. Peace between India and Pakistan – and normalisation – would not be possible without the Kashmir dispute being resolved, he added.

The Pakistani prime minister said that he had “gone the extra mile to achieve this”, repeatedly offering a dialogue to address all outstanding issues. But talks haven’t progressed because India has “posed unacceptable preconditions to engage in a dialogue”, he said.  “Let us be clear: talks are no favour to Pakistan. Talks are in the interest of both countries. They are essential to resolve our differences, especially in (sic) Jammu and Kashmir dispute, and to avert the danger of any escalation.”

Sharif also made a reference to India’s defence budget, saying, “We cannot ignore our neighbour’s unprecedented arms buildup. Will do whatever is necessary to maintain credible deterrence.”

India responds

India responded immediately to several issues raised by Sharif, with Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of the external affairs ministry putting out a series of tweets. Sharif was wrong, he said, to accuse India of imposing “unacceptable conditions” for the bilateral dialogue. India has only one condition – an end to terrorism, said Swarup.

As for Sharif’s reference to Burhan Wani, Swarup said the Pakistani prime minister glorification of  a “Hizbul terrorist” showed “Pakistan’s continued attachment to terrorism.”