Fiery clash at UN as Pakistan, India trade extremism charges

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaking at the UN headquarters on Sept 24, 2021. His address was delivered by video because of Covid-19 precautions. PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - India and Pakistan clashed on Friday (Sept 24) 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, Mr Khan's speech to the annual summit was strikingly loaded as he accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of a plan to "purge India of Muslims".

"The worst and most pervasive form of Islamophobia now rules India," Mr Khan said in an address, delivered by video because of Covid-19 precautions.

"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.

Mr Khan was referring to Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and the affiliated Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a century-old Hindu revivalist movement with a paramilitary component.

Under Mr Modi, India has rescinded the statehood of Kashmir, its only Muslim-majority region, pushed through a citizenship law that critics call discriminatory and has witnessed repeated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 Mr Modi was visiting the White House, Mr Khan - who has yet to speak to United States President Joe Biden - alleged that commercial interests with India were allowing it to "get away with human rights abuses with complete impunity".

While India often ignores Pakistan's statements at the world body, a young Indian diplomat on the floor exercised the right to respond to Mr Khan.

Ms 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.

Pakistan "nurtures terrorists" in its backyard in the hope that they will harm only its neighbours, she said.

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," Ms Dubey said.

Her reply triggered yet another response as a Pakistani diplomat, Ms Saima Saleem, took issue with Ms Dubey's contention that Kashmir, which is partially controlled by Islamabad, is an internal issue.

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