FM advises Delhi to focus on domestic issues

Updated 15 Jun 2020

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Pakistan rejects Indian defence minister’s remarks about situation in occupied Kashmir, AJK. — AFP/File
Pakistan rejects Indian defence minister’s remarks about situation in occupied Kashmir, AJK. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: While Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi advised the Modi-led government on Sunday to focus on its domestic issues rather than behaving like an “expansionist nation”, the Foreign Office strongly condemned and categorically rejected Indian defence minister’s remarks about the situation in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Qureshi tweeted: “Perhaps with necessary introspection, the current Indian government would be less focused on igniting border disputes with every neighbour, behaving like an expansionist nation, and more focused on serving the poor, downtrodden and minorities of India better,” he said.

“It would serve PM Modi’s government and ‘neighbourhood first’ policy well to realise India’s neighbours pose far less of a problem than their own domestic inadequacies, failures and fascism,” he said.

The foreign minister’s tweet comes a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer to the neighbouring country for sharing the success story of his Ehsaas cash programme initiative to help the country’s poor, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pakistan rejects Indian defence minister’s remarks about situation in occupied Kashmir, AJK

Various studies have pointed out that income of 84 per cent of the households in India has declined because of Covid-19. Besides the economic setback, the pandemic has also fuelled hate against Indian Muslims, who are being falsely accused by the right-wing Hindu extremists of spreading coronavirus in India.

Meanwhile, India is also in boarder disputes with its neighbours, including Pakistan, China and Nepal. Pakistan has been accusing India of resorting to firing along the Line of Control.

In a statement, the Foreign Office strongly condemned the Indian defence minister’s delusional remarks about the situation in occupied Kashmir and AJK.

“Pakistan strongly condemns and categorically rejects Indian defence minister’s remarks about the situation in IOJ&K and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) through a video address to ‘Jammu Jan Samvad rally’ today,” said the statement. It said the Indian defence minister’s statement was another manifestation of the BJP government’s delusions about AJK and incurable obsession with Pakistan.

“It has been clear to the people of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan, and the international community, from the outset, that the motive behind the RSS-inspired BJP government’s illegal and unilateral actions of Aug 5, 2019 was to, inter alia, bring about demographic changes in IOJ&K so that the Muslim majority in the region could be changed by deceit, fraud and brute force,” it said, adding that the subsequent steps of promulgation of new domicile law and amendments to various laws, especially regarding acquisition of properties in India-held Kashmir, clearly showed that the primary motivation remained the disempowerment and disenfranchisement of the Kashmiri people and further usurpation of their rights.

The FO said the BJP government had been seeking to force its decisions upon the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir through the muzzle of the gun by deploying more than 900,000 security forces in the region; a lockdown that continues for over 10 months; arbitrary detentions of thousands, including political activists, civil society members, and common men, women and even the disabled; snapping all means of communications; and imposing curfew-like strict measures restricting movement, assembly, peaceful political activities even religious congregations. Since August 2019, hundreds of innocent Kashmiris have been martyred in extrajudicial and custodial killings.

“The egregious human rights violations by the BJP government in IOJ&K and collective punishment of entire communities, including destruction of homes and means of livelihood, are well-documented by international human rights and humanitarian organisations,” the FO said.

The Indian defence minister’s statement is another desperate attempt to divert the attention from India’s state-terrorism and unacceptable human rights violations in held Kashmir. It is also designed to ramp up flailing support for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party through unabashed political opportunism and reckless disregard for peace, stability and security of the region.

The Foreign Office said that assertion about “international recognition” of the BJP government’s measures in held Kashmir could best be termed “obdurate and wilful amnesia”. To assist the Indian defence minister’s memory, the international opprobrium over the BJP government’s human rights violations in occupied Kashmir has been unequivocal, including, inter alia, three UNSC consultations for the first time in about five decades, US Congressional hearings, discussions in parliaments around the world, especially the European Union, condemnation by international human rights and humanitarian organisations, scores of parliamentarians, hundreds of editorials and op-eds in reputed international newspapers and magazines, and offers of mediation by different world leaders.

The statement said that while the world was preoccupied with the Covid-19 pandemic, Indian forces had intensified fake “encounters” and “cordon-and-search” operations and increased their repressive actions, including extrajudicial killings of Kashmiri youth. Even the remains of the martyred Kashmiris are not returned to families for funerals. There is stringent censorship of local media and suppression of dissenting voices by excessive use of force in place. All Hurriyat leaders remain under incarceration.

The FO said that rather than entertaining any further delusions about AJK, the Indian government must immediately remove all restrictions in held Kashmir, restore all means of communications, including 4G internet, withdraw occupation forces from the region, remove draconian PSA, AFSPA and UAPA laws, and allow unfettered access to international observers and independent media to the occupied territory.

“For its part, Pakistan will continue raising the plight of the innocent Kashmiris and support their inalienable right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Security Council resolutions through a free, fair and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations,” the FO said.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2020