India and Pakistan have clashed at the United Nations as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan accused the rival of a “reign of terror” on Muslims, drawing a stern rebuke.
Even for Pakistan, which routinely castigates India at the world body, Khan’s speech on Friday to the UN General Assembly (UNGA), delivered by video due to COVID-19 precautions, was strikingly loaded as he accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of a plan to “purge India of Muslims”.
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In a prerecorded speech aired during the evening, the Pakistani prime minister touched on a range of topics that included climate change, global Islamophobia and “the plunder of the developing world by their corrupt elites”.
But Khan reserved his harshest words for India, once again labelling Modi’s Hindu nationalist government “fascist”.
“The worst and most pervasive form of Islamophobia now rules India,” Khan said in his address.
“The hate-filled Hindutva ideology, propagated by the fascist RSS-BJP regime, has unleashed a reign of fear and violence against India’s 200 million-strong Muslim community,” he said.
Khan was referring to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and the affiliated Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a century-old Hindu revivalist movement with a paramilitary component.
Under Modi, India has rescinded the autonomy of Kashmir, its only Muslim-majority region, pushed through a citizenship law that critics call discriminatory and has witnessed repeated flare-ups of religious-based violence.
Speaking on the day Modi was visiting the White House, Khan – who is yet to speak to President Joe Biden – alleged that commercial interests with billion-plus India were allowing it to “get away with human rights abuses with complete impunity”.
Separately Modi told the UNGA on Saturday that no country should exploit the turmoil in Afghanistan for its own advantage.
He called upon the international community to help the women, children and minorities of Afghanistan and said that it was imperative the country not be used as a base from which to spread terror.
“We … need to be alert and ensure that no country tries to take advantage of the delicate situation there, and use it as a tool for its own selfish interests,” he said in an apparent reference to Pakistan, wedged in between Afghanistan and India.
‘Pakistan nurtures terrorists’
While India often ignores Pakistan’s statements at the world body, a young Indian diplomat on the floor exercised the right to respond to Khan.
Sneha Dubey, a first secretary at India’s UN mission, accused Pakistan of sheltering and glorifying al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden who was killed by US special forces in a 2011 raid in the army city of Abbottabad.
“This is the country which is an arsonist disguising itself as a firefight,” she said.
“Pakistan nurtures terrorists in their back yard in the hope that they will only harm their neighbours.”
She highlighted violence against minorities in Pakistan as well as its “religious and cultural genocide” in 1971 as Bangladesh won independence.
“Unlike Pakistan, India is a pluralistic democracy with a substantial population of minorities who have gone on to hold highest offices in the country,” Dubey said.
Her reply triggered yet another response as a Pakistani diplomat, Saima Saleem, took issue with Dubey’s contention that Kashmir, which is partially controlled by Islamabad, is an internal issue.