India, Pak in war of words over Kashmir at UNGA
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In contrast to the peace moves on bilateral front, India and Pakistan played out a full-blown war of words on the Kashmir issue in the United Nations on Monday night with both sides stopping only after each had exhausted their quota of right of reply.
Each country can exercise the right of reply (RoR) twice on a particular issue. And well into the late hours of Monday, the final day of the weeklong UN General Assembly session, Indian and Pakistani officials were involved in an avoidable squabble over this.
It all started with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's reference to Kashmir, terming a "symbol of the failures" of the UN system and announcing Islamabad's support to the people of J&K to "choose their destiny."
This is standard utterance by Pakistan at the UNGA, which India has of late chosen to respond at a lower level. The odd year was 2010 when Pakistan sought to highlight the violent protests in J&K that year—an issue that did lead to a heated exchange, but again at the official level.
This time, however, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna decided to make a specific mention in his statement, terming Zardari's remarks as an "unwarranted reference." He reaffirmed the Indian position while lauding the democratic process in J&K and underlining that's it's an "integral part of India." Hardly was that done, Pakistan pushed in its request for a right of reply, which was duly stated by its Deputy Permanent Representative Raza Bashir Tarar. He said the Pakistan President's remarks were "not unwarranted" as he went on to add: "Let me also make it absolutely clear that Jammu & Kashmir is neither an integral part of India and nor has it ever been."
If that was not enough, the Indian side then staged its performance. Exercising its first right of reply, the Indian mission, represented by one of its Minister-level officers, stated that J&K "is and has always been an integral part of India." The Indian delegation then raised the pitch. "It is ironical that these comments have been made by a country which is persisting with its illegal occupation of a part of the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir. These references constitute a clear interference in the internal affairs of India and we reject them in their entirety."
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