Pakistan weighs in on farmers protest in India

FO voices concerns over rapidly shrinking space for dissent in neighbouring country

Our Correspondent February 05, 2021
Foreign Office Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri. PHOTO: APP/FILE


As farmers’ protest in India made international headlines after many celebrities, including an American singer showed solidarity with the campaign, Pakistan on Thursday voiced concerns over “increasing intolerance and rapidly shrinking space for any dissent” in the neighbouring country.

“The treatment of minorities, increasing intolerance, and rapidly shrinking space for any dissent in India is a matter of serious concern not only for the Indian minorities and the neighbouring countries but also for the international community,” said the Foreign Office spokesperson here at the weekly news briefing.

Responding to a question the ongoing protest in India, Zahid Hafiz Chaudhri said the current situation in India was a sad reminder of the fact that under the BJP-RSS regime, extremist Hindutva ideology takes precedence over all principles of justice, human rights and democratic norms.

“Regarding the farmers’ protest in India, we have been repeatedly saying that under the RSS-BJP combine, India is no more a democracy but an extremist Hindutva regime. Today, the international community is coming around to this view,” the spokesperson added.

He said the international community, including human rights organisations, parliamentarians, celebrities and sane voices within India are calling the RSS-BJP regime out on what is happening with the minorities, journalists, human rights activists, international human rights organisations inside the country and in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

The smokescreen India had created to present itself as the so-called “largest democracy’ has disappeared and India stands fully exposed, he further said.

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of New Delhi since November to seek the repeal of new laws enacted by the Modi government to deregulate the agriculture sector.

The protests turned violence on January 26 when thousands of protesters marched towards the capital and briefly occupied the historic Mughal-era Red Fort. At least 1 protester was killed and several others were injured in the clashes between the police and demonstrators.

The farmer’s protest has been echoing globally after many celebrities including Rihanna, renowned singer with over 100 million followers on Twitter, supported the movement. The tweet in favour of farmers protest invited a rebuttal from the Indian government, an unprecedented move suggesting Modi government appears to be rattled by the international criticism. Many Bollywood celebrities came to the rescue of the government and some termed the farmers anti-national and even terrorists.

Replying to a question about the recent statement of the army chief calling for peaceful and dignified resolution of the Kashmir dispute, the spokesperson said Pakistan had always believed in peaceful settlement of all issues, including the core issue of the Jammu and Kashmir.

“It is India that has vitiated the environment with its illegal, inhuman and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019. The onus is on India to create enabling environment for meaningful engagement. India must rescind its illegal and unilateral actions, end its state-terrorism against the Kashmiri people, and agree to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” he added.

He said the statement by the Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan General Qamar Javed Bajwa, when compared to the statements by the Indian military leadership, clearly shows the difference of approach and mind set.

The statement by the chief of army staff was a reflection of Pakistan’s desire for peace and security in the region. The statement was also a reiteration of the importance of peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The army chief’s statement is a manifestation of Pakistan’s firm commitment to the ideals of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence. On the contrary, the Indian military officials have been making careers out of issuing irresponsible and provocative statements against Pakistan,” he said.

“The belligerent rhetoric of the Indian military leadership is an example of the RSS-BJP mind set, which has permeated all state institutions of India,” the spokesperson said. He also said that India’s defence limitations had been embarrassingly exposed to the world, first in Balakot and then in Ladakh.

“Pakistan has consistently maintained that there can be no resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute without letting the Kashmiri people exercise their inalienable right to self-determination, as enshrined in the relevant UNSC Resolutions.”

Responding to another question, Chaudhri rejected the impression of any change in Pakistan’s longstanding stance on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. “We have been repeatedly saying that there is absolutely no change in Pakistan’s principled position on Jammu and Kashmir dispute. On the other hand, India has been consistently changing its position in this regard. The solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute lies in the realisation of the Kashmiris’ inalienable right to self-determination through a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations,” he said.


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