India has accused Pakistan of subverting a UN forum on peace and children to further its territorial ambitions against New Delhi while using terrorists as state policy tools.
“It is ironic, that our neighbour, Pakistan, well-known for providing safe havens to terrorists and using terrorism as a tool of state policy has used this platform to yet again covet Indian territory, cloaking its designs in the garb of concern for justice and self determination,” senior Indian diplomat Srinivas Prasad said in reply to Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi who raised the Kashmir issue during a high-level debate on the Culture of Peace Focusing on Children on Thursday.
“May I remind our neighbour that Jammu and Kashmir is and will remain an integral part of India. It is time that Pakistan too reconciles to this.
“A culture of peace, not only symbolizes peace in the larger context, but in terms of inter-State ties is also a value built on good neighbourliness, mutual respect and non-interference,” Prasad, the minister in India’s UN Mission, added.
The debate opened with UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson saying: “Mahatma Gandhi told us if we were to teach real peace in the world, we will have to begin with children.”
“These prescient words resonate with us today as we search for solutions to the complex security challenges confronting the world.”
Made up mostly of non-Indians with the women in colourful saris, the choir of the mystic Sri Chinmoy’s group, The Peace Meditation at the United Nations, sang hymns dedicated to peace before national delegates began speaking.
After that beginning the session focusing on children was jolted midway by Lodhi who said: “The situation in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir is a travesty of international law, justice and humanity.
“The plight and profound suffering of the Kashmiri people should shake the world conscience and should urge the international community into action.”
She likened the situation in the Indian state of Kashmir to Palestine saying they were the “most glaring examples” of “longstanding cases where historic injustices wait to be corrected and where people are still denied their fundamental right to self-determination”.
Prasad replied: “As a democracy India always abides by the choice of the people and will not allow it to be undermined by terrorists and extremists.
“It reiterates the principle of the need for promotion of peace through non-violence, a principle Gandhi so eloquently expressed in his life message.
“As one of the oldest civilizations in the world, India has been the home to a continuous steam of great spiritual teachers, thinkers through out the centuries who have spread the message of a culture of peace.
“Starting with the hymns of the Vedas and leading to Lord Buddha and Gandhi, the message of the Indian civilization is a Culture of Peace,” he added.
Emphasizing on the session’s theme, Prasad said: “Protecting children and creating a peaceful world for them to grow up happily and led a fulfilling life in the first step in building a culture of peace.”
Recognising the important role of girls, in building a Culture of Peace, India has launched a flagship programme for them, he said.
“The ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (protect and educate the girl child) scheme is one of India’s major initiatives,” he said, adding “Another major programme of the Government is the Skill Development Programme focused on providing various skills to young people to help them become productive and peaceful citizens.”
Denouncing the huge spending on the military while “there are starving children here in the US” Nobel Laureate Betty Williams said: “The world has absolutely gone insane.”
“Why do we who call ourselves Christians glorify war,” she asked. “We bless armies. Crazy.”
Williams, who is the president of the World Centres of Compassion for Children, appealed for transferring budgets for the military to programmes for children.
“It is time to allow children to have a voice.”
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected])