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India warns as Pakistan urges to work with Taliban

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the 76th session of the UN General Assembly at UN headquarters on Saturday in the US city of New York. AFP

India warns as Pakistan urges to work with Taliban

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the UN on September 25 that no country should exploit the turmoil in Afghanistan for its own advantage after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan appealed for nations to work with the Taliban.

Modi’s address came after India upbraided Islamabad both in Washington and at the UN General Assembly where the rivals clashed over Khan’s speech late on September 24 that accused the Indian government of conducting a “reign of terror” on Muslims.

“It is absolutely essential to ensure that Afghanistan’s territory is not used to spread terrorism and for terrorist attacks,” said Modi.

“We also need to be alert and ensure that no country tries to take advantage of the delicate situation there and use it as a tool for its own selfish interests.”

On September 24, the Indian prime minister raised concerns about Pakistan during talks with US President Joe Biden as well as at a broader four-way summit with the leaders of Australia and Japan, according to Indian officials, who said the others concurred.

“There was a clear sense that a more careful look and a more careful examination and monitoring of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan – Pakistan’s role on the issue of terrorism – had to be kept,” foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters after the White House talks.

Khan told the General Assembly that the Taliban have promised to respect human rights and build an inclusive government since taking over last month, despite global disappointment in a caretaker cabinet.

“If the world community incentivises them, and encourages them to walk this talk, it will be a win-win situation for everyone,” he said. “We must strengthen and stabilise the current government, for the sake of the people of Afghanistan.”

Khan spent much of his speech defending the record of Pakistan, the main supporter of the Taliban’s 1996-2001 regime that imposed an ultra-austere interpretation of Islam and welcomed al-Qaeda, triggering the US invasion after the September 11 attacks.

Khan, a longstanding critic of the 20-year US war ended by Biden, blamed imprecise US drone strikes for the flare-up of extremism inside Pakistan and pointed to Islamabad’s cooperation with US forces.

“There is a lot of worry in the US about taking care of the interpreters and everyone who helped the US. What about us?” Khan said in a speech, pre-recorded by video due to Covid-19 precautions.

“At least there should have been a word of appreciation. But rather than appreciation, imagine how we feel when we are blamed for the turn of events in Afghanistan.”

US officials have long accused Islamabad’s powerful intelligence services of maintaining support for the Taliban, leading Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump to slash military aid.

Biden has yet to speak with Khan, much less invite him to hold talks, although Secretary of State Antony Blinken met on September 23 on the UN sidelines with his Pakistani counterpart and offered thanks for help repatriating US citizens from Afghanistan.

Khan accused a world eager for India’s billion-plus market of giving “complete impunity” to Modi in a speech that was loaded even for Pakistan, which routinely castigates India at the UN.

“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,” Khan said.

Khan was referring to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the affiliated Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a century-old Hindu revivalist movement with a paramilitary component.

Under Modi, India has rescinded the statehood of Kashmir, its only Muslim-majority region, pushed through a citizenship law that critics call discriminatory and witnessed repeated flare-ups of religious violence.

While India often ignores Pakistan’s statements, a young Indian diplomat responded from the General Assembly floor.

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 2011 – in the army city of Abbottabad.

“Pakistan nurtures terrorists in their backyard in the hope that they will only harm their neighbours,” she said.

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

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