After shadow boxing with Pakistan in the Council of Foreign Ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on Friday, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar landed a series of punches on his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, ruling out any bilateral engagement with the “promoter, justifier and… spokesperson of a terrorism industry”.
With the SCO meeting in Goa eclipsed by the killing of five soldiers by terrorists in the Rajouri sector of Jammu and Kashmir and the government facing criticism from the Aam Aadmi Party for hosting Bhutto-Zardari during an act of terrorism, Jaishankar delivered a series of aggressive sound bites at what was technically a media briefing by the presidency (India) after the Council of Foreign Ministers’ (CFM) meeting.
While his opening statement was on the SCO, the questions were mostly Pakistan-related. The minister said: “As a foreign minister of an SCO member state, Bhutto-Zardari was treated accordingly. As a promoter, justifier and — I am sorry to say — spokesperson for a terrorism industry — which is a mainstay of Pakistan — his positions were called out and they were countered including at the meeting itself.’’
On Bhutto-Zardari making a case for a collective approach to terrorism and iterating that Pakistan has itself suffered a lot from terrorism, Jaishankar said: “Victims of terrorism do not sit together with perpetrators of terrorism to discuss terrorism. Victims of terrorism defend themselves, counter acts of terrorism, they call it out, delegitimise it and that is exactly what is happening.”
In his speech at the CFM, Jaishankar had not named Pakistan but there was no doubt who he was pointing to. “While the world was engaged in facing Covid and its consequences, the menace of terrorism continues unabated. Taking our eyes off this menace would be detrimental to our security interests. We firmly believe that there can be no justification for terrorism and it must be stopped in all its forms and manifestations, including cross-border terrorism.
“The channel of finances for terrorist activities must be seized and blocked without distinction.”
Bhutto-Zardari did not differ with him in principle — stating that “terrorism continues to threaten global security” — but went on to add: “Let’s not get caught up in weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring.”