THE speeches at the United Nations General Assembly by India and Pakistan leaders is a major annual event that attracts a lot of media and public attention in South Asia. One major point of interest is the lingering India-Pakistan animosity, largely driven by their long-standing fight over Jammu and Kashmir. Since revocation of Article 370 in August 2019, the speeches have assumed an even bigger news value. More so, in Kashmir, where people eagerly look forward to these speeches to see if there’s anything in store for them.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif in his speech this year said that while Pakistan looks for peace with India, “sustainable peace and stability” in the region was contingent upon the resolution of the Kashmir issue. Sharif also alleged that India was seeking to turn the Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir into a Hindu territory through “illegal demographic changes”.
India in a hard-hitting reply said it was “regrettable” that he made false accusations against India. Indian diplomat, First Secretary Mijito Vinito, said during the ‘Right of Reply’ session that Sharif has made accusations against India “to obfuscate misdeeds in his own country and to justify actions against India that the world considers unacceptable.” Vinito further said that a polity that claims it seeks peace with its neighbours would never sponsor cross border terrorism. nor would it shelter planners of the horrific Mumbai terrorist attack.
India always brings up terrorism sponsored from across the border and Pakistan makes counter accusations and also seeks to highlight the situation in Kashmir. This acrimonious exchange is a routine spectacle at the United Nations where the mutually antagonistic positions are ritualistically rehearsed at various meetings. Over the last three years, the positions on both sides have become even more rigid and bitter.
If anything, it also underlines the lingering estrangement between the neighbours that has further deepened since New Delhi’s withdrawal of Article 370. Situation can be expected to improve if the leaders of the two countries deem it in their core interest to engage which doesn’t seem the case now. This would need a huge leap of faith on both sides.
And if not then we can only hope that the current climate of distrust and antagonism doesn’t lead to further escalation of tensions. More so, when due to suspended talks, the two countries lack the diplomatic tools to manage the fallout. It is therefore important that the two countries get back to the dialogue and work towards the resolution of their longstanding issues for durable peace in the region.
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