‘Butcher of Gujarat’, ‘epicenter of terrorism’: India, Pakistan trade barbs

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India’s foreign minister accused Pakistan of being the “epicenter of terrorism” while his counterpart hit back that Narendra Modi was the “Butcher of Gujarat” in a war of words at the United Nations.

The nuclear-armed rivals have strained political ties, especially over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which was split between the two during Partition in 1947.

New Delhi accuses Islamabad of harboring militants who launch attacks on its soil, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left scores dead.

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The latest exchange of taunts happened on the sidelines of an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council in New York across Wednesday and Thursday.

Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar told Pakistan to “clean up your act and try to be (a) good neighbor,” calling Pakistan the “epicenter of terrorism.”

“Hillary Clinton, during her visit to Pakistan, said that if you keep snakes in your backyard you can’t expect them to bite only your neighbors, eventually they will bite the people who keep them in the backyard.”

In response, Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said India sought to conflate Muslims and terrorists in both countries.

He told Jaishankar that “Osama bin Laden is dead, (but) the Butcher of Gujarat lives and he is the prime minister of India.”

India’s Hindu nationalist leader Modi was chief minister of the state of Gujarat when sectarian riots in 2002 left more than 1,000 people dead.

Modi has been accused of turning a blind eye to the violence, and until his election was denied entry to the US.

Bhutto Zardari said his country had lost far more lives to terrorism and that he himself was a victim, referring to his mother Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated by a suicide bomber in 2007.

“Why would we want our own people to suffer? We absolutely do not.”

Responding to the exchange, the spokesman for India’s foreign minister said it was a “new low even for Pakistan,” while quipping that “‘Made in Pakistan’ terrorism had to stop.”

Pakistan this week accused India of backing militants responsible for the 2021 bombing in Lahore near the house of an Islamist leader which killed four people.

Hafiz Saeed is accused by India and the US of being involved in the Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people, including foreigners.

Islamabad said it would share evidence of the allegation, along with other accusations of sabotage, with the UN without offering further details.

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