UNITED NATIONS/NEW YORK – The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, perhaps forgot a bowl to collect donations for his economically beleaguered country, or maybe brought it out only discreetly, as his trip to New York this month was otherwise total fixation over Kashmir, with repeated threats and pleas for international intervention hinting at a catastrophic war with India.
India thwarted Khan’s melodramatic belligerence with stoic reminders to the international community, including the United States, to what Pakistan exports to the world in abundance: radical terrorism.
Going by reactions from most countries, as reported in the media, they sided with India. Ignored Pakistan.
All Khan achieved was to portray Pakistan as a potential rogue nation in the making, if not already so, like North Korea and Iran. A danger to the world and to humanity.
Speaking at the United Nations today – before Khan took to the podium, Modi never once mentioned Pakistan or Kashmir in his speech, but made it amply clear to the world what he thought of his neighbor who have tried for decades to wreak havoc through cross-border terrorism.
This was unlike what India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar did on the trip: lambast Pakistan as “terroristan” in several speeches and interactions with the media.
Both Modi and Jaishankar conveyed to the world that they would be willing to speak to Pakistan but first the neighbor has to improve their record on curbing and eliminating terrorist groups and terrorist activities.
Reminding that the entire world is celebrating this year the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Modi said in his speech to the General Assembly that Gandhi’s “message of truth and non-violence is very relevant for us even today, for peace , development and progress in the world.” He then delved into India’s efforts towards the Swachh Bharat campaign.
“When a developing country is able to successfully implement the world’s biggest sanitation campaign within the Clean India Mission, building over 110 million toilets in just 5 years for its countrymen, all its achievements and outcomes are an inspirational message for the entire world,” Modi said.
Modi pointed out that India runs the world’s biggest health assurance scheme, giving 500 million people the facility of an annual health cover of Rs. 500,000 free treatment.
Modi then eloquently spoke about the threat emanating from Pakistan, not just for India, but for the rest of the world.
“A world divided by terrorism, hurts the very principles on which the UN was founded, therefore for humanity’s sake, I consider it necessary for the entire world to unite against terrorism,” Modi said.
“We are citizens of a country that has given message of peace, Buddha to the world and not wars,” he said. “India was several thousand-years-old civilization and has historically believed in welfare for all, that is the crux of our slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas.”
Modi made the case for international consensus on terror, pointing an invisible finger at Pakistan: “The lack of unanimity amongst us on the issue of terrorism, dents those very principles, that are the basis for the creation of the UN. And that is why, for the sake of humanity, I firmly believe, that it is absolutely imperative, that the world unites against terrorism, and that the world stands as one against terrorism.”
Modi in his address also reminded the world of India’s contribution to world peace.
“The largest number of supreme sacrifices made by soldiers of any country for UN peace keeping missions is from India,” Modi said, adding, “We belong to a country that has given the world, not war, but Buddha’s message of peace.”
Modi also invited all countries to join the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure – an initiative launched with countries like the UK, Australia, Fiji and the Maldives to build infrastructure resistant to natural disasters.
Apart from quoting Mahatma Gandhi, and Swami Vivekananda, Modi also quoted Tamil poet Kaniyan Poongundranaar, saying, “Yadum, Ooray, Yaavarum Kelir” (we belong to all places and we belong to everyone).
Khan, in his speech, seemed incensed that Modi did not take Pakistan by name, and harped on the Kashmir issue.
He warned, like he did in several other speeches earlier in the week, of a “bloodbath” in Kashmir, which could lead to a nuclear war too.
“There are 900,000 troops there (in Kashmir), they haven’t come to, as Narendra Modi says — for the prosperity of Kashmir… These 900,000 troops, what are they going to do? When they come out? There will be a bloodbath,” Khan said in his speech.
“If a conventional war starts between the two countries, anything could happen. But supposing a country seven times smaller than its neighbor is faced with the choice: either you surrender, or you fight for your freedom till death?” Khan asked.
“What will we do? I ask myself these questions. We will fight… and when a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond the borders,” he warned.
On Thursday, at the Asia Society, Khan had given a similar talk, in conversation with Josette Sheeran, President and CEO of Asia Society, who moderated the conversation.
Speaking of Kashmir, Khan admitted his failure to convey his message to the rest of the world.
“I have tried my best in the media, I’ve tried to make them understand. I’ve spoken to leaders. Almost all the ones I’ve spoken to. I’ve made them understand – they might not be moving right now, but I feel that what the Modi government has done is boxed itself in by taking this step. I don’t think they’ve really thought through what they’ve done. … Have they thought through that when they lift the curfew what happens?”
U.S. President Donald Trump met separately with both Modi and Khan on the sidelines of the U.N. gathering. Trump urged Modi to improve ties with Pakistan and “fulfill his promise to better the lives of the Kashmiri people,” the White House said, reported agencies.
It was a far cry from what Trump had reportedly earlier promised Khan: mediation in the Kashmir issue.