War of words between India, Pak on Kashmir in Maldives

The Pakistani representative referred to the Kashmir issue after which a point of order was raised by India and a strong rebuttal was given by Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh. (ANI)

A conclave of Speakers and Chairpersons of Parliaments of the South Asian nations in the Maldives on Sunday witnessed a war of words between Indian and Pakistani representatives over Kashmir.

Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Harivansh Narayan Singh, strongly protested, when Qasim Suri, Deputy Speaker of National Assembly of Pakistan, raised the issue of Kashmir while speaking at the conference.

Singh and the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla are representing India at the 4th South Asian Speaker’s Summit on Sustainable Development Goals held at ‘Majlis’ – Parliament of Maldives.

“We cannot ignore the situation of Kashmiris who are facing oppression. They are facing injustice,” Suri said while delivering his remarks at the conference on behalf of the delegation from Pakistan.

Singh immediately raised a “Point of Order” to protest the remarks by Suri.

“We strongly object to raising the internal matter of India in this forum. We also reject the politicization of the forum by raising issues which are extraneous to the theme of the summit,” he said after being allowed by Speaker of Maldives Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed, and Inter-Parliamentary Union, Martin Chungong.

He went on to call upon Pakistan to stop exporting terror to India and other countries in the region. He said that Pakistan must stop providing state support to terrorism.

Singh also demanded the deletion of the reference to Kashmir by the Deputy Speaker of Pakistan National Assembly from the record of the proceedings of the conclave.

“SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)— all of them, whether about women, about youth, for a sustainable development environment, for food security, nothing can be achieved without human rights. If you have no people to implement the SDGs on, who are you going to implement the sustainable development goals for? Just land?”  Quratulain Marri, a member of Senate of Pakistan, said, countering Singh.

“The atrocities being meted out in Kashmir… On women… They are directly related to SDGs,” said Marri, asking Nasheed and Martin, who was chairing the session, to allow Suri to complete his speech.

Singh later also hit out at Pakistan by indirectly referring to the genocide committed by its armed forces in Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan).

He questioned if a nation which had committed genocide on its own people had the moral right to question another nation. Even as Marri and Suri vehemently opposed and tried to interrupt him, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha went on to say that the part of Kashmir currently under illegal occupation of Pakistan was an integral part of India.

The tension between India and Pakistan escalated after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government in New Delhi stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and reorganized the state into two Union Territories.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government in Islamabad protested against New Delhi’s decisions, calling it a “unilateral” and “illegal” move to change the status quo in the “disputed” region in violation of the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and "against the wishes of the people of Kashmir".

Pakistan also launched a diplomatic campaign against India to internationalise the issue of Kashmir, in the wake of the New Delhi’s moves on Kashmir.

Modi government, however, has been maintaining that New Delhi’s decisions on J&K were internal affairs of India. New Delhi argued that the recent decisions by Modi Government were “driven by a commitment to extending to Jammu and Kashmir opportunities for development that were earlier denied by a temporary provision in the Constitution (Article 370)”.

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