NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan are gearing up for a showdown over Kashmir at the United Nations General Assembly later this month, with foreign minister Sushma Swaraj expected to give a “befitting” response to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s plan to focus on the unrest in the state.
Sharif will on September 21 and Swaraj, who will lead the Indian delegation as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to skip this year’s meeting, will take the podium on September 26.
Indian officials said Swaraj will give a “befitting” reply to any charges that Sharif makes.
The Pakistan government has upped the ante on Kashmir in recent weeks, sending envoys to world capitals to raise “rights violations” during the unrest triggered by the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani. Pakistan’s Foreign Office made it clear on Friday there would be no let-up when Sharif makes his address.
Sharif, the Foreign Office said in a statement, will “specifically focus on the current situation, particularly the continuing grave violations of human rights” by Indian troops in Kashmir. He will also call on the world community and the UN to “live up to their promise of the right to self-determination” of the Kashmiri people.
Sharif held wide-ranging consultations with leaders of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the PoK chapter of the All Party Hurriyat Conference on Friday. He consulted PoK “president” Masood Khan and “prime minister” Sardar Farooq Haider along with federal ministers Pervaiz Rashid and Barjees Tahir and his special assistant Tariq Fatemi.
Indian sources said Pakistan was readying to make “provocative” statements at the UN that will be “effectively countered.”
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will hold its annual “coordination meeting of foreign ministers” and a meeting of its “contact group” on Jammu and Kashmir on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. This would again see the two countries making sharp exchanges. The OIC has invited the chairman of the moderate Hurriyat faction, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, for the meeting of the contact group.
This will be the second year in a row that Swaraj will counter Pakistan’s charges on Kashmir at the UN General Assembly. Though Modi attended last year’s meet, he only addressed the gathering on sustainable development goals.
Though India and Pakistan often rake up the Kashmir issue at the General Assembly, India’sprovince, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, has added a new dimension to the sparring.
On September 14, India made a reference to Balochistan at the UN Human Rights Council for the first time. There are also reports that Baloch leader Brahumdagh Bugti, living in self-exile in Switzerland, could get asylum in India. There was, however, no official word on this issue.