Jaishankar talks tough on terror at SCO Summit with Bilawal Bhutto in attendance
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, in an unsparing attack yesterday accused his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of being a “promoter, justifier and a spokesperson of a terror industry” after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) witnessed a face-off between the two sides.
Jaishankar mounted the offensive against the visiting Pakistani foreign minister after Bhutto Zardari in his address at the SCO meeting in this beach resort contended that terrorism shouldn’t be “weaponised for diplomatic point-scoring”, in remarks seen as directed at India.
Hours later at a press conference, Jaishankar said Bhutto Zardari’s statement on the weaponisation of terrorism unconsciously revealed a mindset.
“As a foreign minister of an SCO member state, Bhutto Zardari was treated accordingly. As a promoter, justifier and a spokesperson of a terrorism industry, which is the mainstay of Pakistan, his positions were called out and they were countered including at the SCO meeting itself,” Jaishankar said.
Jaishankar’s counter-attack on Bhutto Zardari came on a day when there was outrage over the martyrdom of five Army soldiers in an encounter with terrorists in the Rajouri district of Jammu.
On Pakistan’s tackling of terrorism, Jaishankar said the country’s credibility is depleting even faster than its forex reserves.
“Victims of terrorism do not sit together with the perpetrators of terrorism to discuss terrorism,” Jaishankar said when asked about the possibility of India and Pakistan working towards combating the menace.
“Victims of terrorism defend themselves to counter acts of terrorism. They call it out, they delegitimise it. And that is what is happening. To come here and preach these hypocritical words as though we are on the same boat. I mean they are committing acts of terrorism,” he said.
In his address at the meeting of the SCO foreign ministers, Jaishankar said the channel of finances for terrorist activities must be blocked without any distinction and that terrorism in all its forms including cross-border terrorism must be stopped.
Chairing the conclave, Jaishankar also said that taking the “eyes off terrorism” would be detrimental to the security interests of the grouping and that when the world was engaged in facing the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences, the menace of terrorism continued unabated, in another veiled reference to Pakistan.
“We must not allow anybody — individual or State — to hide behind non-State actors,” Jaishankar said in the presence of Bhutto Zardari and his counterparts from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
“Taking our eyes off the menace would be detrimental to our security interests. We firmly believe that there can be no justification for terrorism and it must be stopped in all its forms and manifestations including cross-border terrorism,” he added.
The external affairs minister said Bhutto Zardari came to India as foreign minister of an SCO member state and it is part of multilateral diplomacy.
“Please do not see it as anything more than that,” he said
During his address, Bhutto Zardari referred to what he described as a “violation of international law”, remarks which were seen as an apparent reference to Kashmir.
The SCO norms do not allow raking up bilateral issues and the two foreign ministers made the comments indirectly and did not name any country.
“Unilateral and illegal measures by States in violation of international law and Security Council resolutions run counter to the SCO objectives,” the Pakistani minister said.
While expressing Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism, Bhutto Zardari also appeared to take a swipe at India as he called for not getting caught up in “weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point-scoring”.
“We must stop conflating non-state actors with state actors,” he noted.
The Pakistan foreign minister also remembered his mother and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination at the hands of terrorists.
“When I speak on this topic, I do so not only as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan whose people have suffered the most in terms of number of attacks and number of casualties. I also speak as the son whose mother was assassinated at the hands of terrorists,” Bhutto Zardari said.
Jaishankar also trashed Pakistan’s objection to holding a G-20 meeting in Srinagar and asserted that Jammu and Kashmir “was, is and will” always be part of India.
“There is only one issue to discuss on Kashmir which is when does Pakistan vacate its illegal occupation of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir,” he said.
On the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, Jaishakar said, “it is history. Wake up and smell the coffee.”
On the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Jaishankar said it was made very clear that connectivity is good for progress, but it cannot violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states.
“This has been our long-standing position and nobody should have any doubt about it and I assure you that those who were in the room today have no doubt about it. I made sure of that,” he said.
Slamming Bhutto Zardari for his “weaponisation of terrorism” remarks, Jaishankar said,’It is a very interesting statement because it unconsciously reveals a mindset. What does weaponising something mean?”
“It means that the activity is legitimate and somebody is weaponising it…Somebody saying you are weaponising terrorism. That means they think terrorism is legitimate,” Jaishankar said.
“We are countering terrorism. We are defending ourselves, we are calling it out, we are exposing it…We are not scoring diplomatic points. We are politically, diplomatically exposing Pakistan before the world,” he said.