The United Nations in New York has become something of a bear-pit in the last 10 days as a range of world leaders and country representatives traded a plethora of insults and accusations. Pakistan and India joined the fray on Sunday 24th September; when Pakistan via its ambassador to the UN, Dr Maleeha Lodhi, said that India has exposed its ‘deep hostility’ to Pakistan in a speech by Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. In the speech, Ms Swaraj alleged that Pakistan was ‘an export factory for terror’ among a range of other derogatory statements. Dr Lodhi sought and received the right to reply.
India is a state sponsor of terrorism, said Dr Lodhi; and in her speech, Ms Swaraj avoided the key issue that lies at the heart of the dispute between our two nations, namely that of Jammu and Kashmir. The UN Security Council had itself in over a dozen resolutions ruled that the dispute must be resolved by the people of Jammu and Kashmir themselves via a UN-supervised plebiscite. Ambassador Lodhi systematically detailed the campaigns of brutality inside Kashmir and the persistent avoidance by India of the implementation of UN resolutions by ‘obfuscation, diversion, deceit and aggression.’
The riposte by Dr Lodhi was appropriate, robust and in line with an evolving ‘foot forwards’ position as regards foreign policy. It is therefore surprising that she made a puzzling gaffe in her presentation. To illustrate her point regarding Indian atrocities she held up a picture of the damaged face of a young girl, claiming it to be caused by pellet guns fired in the course of demonstrations against the illegal Indian occupation. Unfortunately it was not. The picture was of a 17 year-old Palestinian girl called Raywa Abu Joma and was taken by American photojournalist Heidi Levine in 2014 after the girl was injured by an Israeli airstrike. ‘This is the face of Indian democracy’, said Dr Lodhi as she held up the image. Unsurprisingly, the Indian media have mocked Dr Lodhi for this uncharacteristic mistake. A dignified apology is in order — as is a stringent requirement that any image so used in future go through the most rigorous fact-checking procedure.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2017.