Calling Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari a “promoter, justifier and spokesperson” of terrorism, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Friday hit out at Islamabad for its continued support to terror groups.
Speaking at the end of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Council For Foreign Ministers (SCO-CFM) that he had chaired, Mr. Jaishankar said Indians felt “outrage” over a incident on Friday, referring to the firing in Rajouri in which five Indian soldiers were killed.
The bilateral spat between both countries came even as the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting agreed to strengthen cooperation in a number of areas, including economic and technological spheres. Announcing the results of the Ministers’ deliberations, Mr. Jaishankar said India’s proposals on making English an additional official language to Russian and Chinese at the SCO, and setting up working groups on innovation, start-ups and traditional medicines were being discussed.
The Ministers agreed on a 15-point decision document that will be taken forward to the SCO Heads of State Summit due on July 3-4 in Delhi, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host the Presidents of Russia, China, the Central Asian states, and Iran and Belarus, which are set to be inducted in the SCO, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
After the customary greetings on Friday Morning, Mr. Jaishankar welcomed his counterparts to the SCO-CFM. However, in their speeches both Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Bhutto traded veiled accusations over cross-border terrorism and the amendment to Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
Briefing journalists in the evening , Mr. Jaishankar said he was forced to distinguish between hosting Pakistan’s Foreign Minister as a member of the SCO, and “treating him differently” for Mr. Bhutto’s comments on terrorism.
“As a Foreign Minister of an SCO member state, Mr. Bhutto Zardari was treated accordingly. As a promoter, justifier and spokesperson of a terrorism industry which is the mainstay of Pakistan, his positions were called out and countered including at the SCO meeting itself,” Mr. Jaishankar said. He answered a number of questions on the visit of Mr. Bhutto and his statements at the SCO meeting, as well as a briefing for Pakistani journalists held in Goa.
Mr. Jaishankar also responded sharply to questions about China’s official statement issued after his meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, on Thursday, that stated that the situation at the Line of Actual control (LAC) was “stable”.
“That’s not the issue,” Mr. Jaishankar said, adding that India and China need to take the disengagement process forward. “India China relations are not normal and cannot be normal if peace and tranquillity is disturbed,” he said.
In his statement at the CFM, Mr. Qin did not refer to the situation at the LAC but spoke about the Belt and Road initiative. He said that Beijing would hold a major BRI conference this year with all parties to take cooperation forward.
India has consistently opposed the inclusion of the BRI in the SCO statements, and regularly abstains paragraphs that refer to the Chinese infrastructure initiative, which other SCO countries endorse.
Earlier, addressing the SCO meeting, Mr. Bhutto called on members not to “weaponise terrorism for diplomatic point scoring”. In a reference to the reorganisation of Jammu Kashmir, he also spoke of “unilateral and illegal measures by states in violation of international law and UNSC resolutions”.
Mr. Jaishankar responded that Pakistan should “wake up and smell the coffee”. “Article 370 is history”, he added, referring to Mr. Bhutto’s contention that he made during the press conference as well as in an interview to The Hindu that India must reverse its moves of August 5, 2019. “The only issue over Kashmir up for discussion with Pakistan is over when they will give up their occupation of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK),” a visibly angry Mr. Jaishankar added.
(With inputs from Ananth Krishnan)