Don’t use terrorism as diplomatic tool: Pakistan FM in India

Bhutto Zardari is on a two-day visit to India for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting.

Bhutto-Zardi (r) and Jaishankar
Foreign ministers Subrahmanyam Jaishankar of India (left) and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of Pakistan did not shake hands at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting and pose standing at a distance [India's Ministry of External Affairs/handout via Reuters]

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has urged the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member nations to avoid using “terrorism” as a diplomatic instrument in an apparent riposte to India.

Bhutto Zardari is on a two-day visit to the Indian city of Goa for a meeting of the foreign ministers of the forum’s eight members and four observer countries.

Founded in 2001, the SCO is a political and security bloc in Asia consisting of Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Bhutto Zardari is making the first visit to India by a Pakistani foreign minister in 12 years.

On Friday, he emphasised a united response to security threats faced by member countries, reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to peace in the region and highlighted historical losses it has suffered.

“The collective security of our peoples is our joint responsibility,” the foreign minister said during his address at the SCO.

“Terrorism continues to threaten global security,” he said. “Let’s not get caught up in weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring. Our success requires us to isolate this issue from geopolitical partisanship. Practical, pragmatic solutions exist for us to put an end to this chapter once and for all. We must stop conflating non-state actors with state actors.”

Prior to Bhutto Zardari’s speech, Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in his opening address, highlighted the “menace of terrorism”, warning that taking eyes off it would be damaging to the region’s 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,” Jaishankar said in an apparent reference to Kashmir.

Pakistan has repeatedly protested the Indian government’s unilateral decision four years ago to revoke the partial autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir and remove its statehood by splitting it into the two federal territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh.

Kashmir has been one of the most contentious issues between the two neighbours since their independence from British rule in 1947. Both sides claim the Muslim-majority region in full but rule parts of it, which are divided by the Line of Control, a de facto border.

Bhutto Zardari said “unilateral and illegal” measures in violation of international law run counter to SCO objectives.

“We need to be unambiguous in keeping our commitments and charting out a new future for our people, one that is not based on conflict preservation but on conflict resolution,” he said, highlighting the need to resist the temptation to stoke “prejudice and discrimination”.

He made the remarks at a time when the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who leads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been facing fierce criticism about increasing attacks against Muslims and other religious minorities.

This week, an independent commission in the United States recommended that India be added to a religious freedom blacklist as conditions for religious minorities “continued to worsen” throughout 2022.

Bhutto Zardari also spoke about Pakistan’s northwestern neighbour Afghanistan, which is one of the SCO observer nations. It has been ruled by the Taliban since a US withdrawal and the armed group’s subsequent takeover in August 2021.

He called the international community to “meaningfully engage” with the Taliban government.

Source: Al Jazeera