Union Minister Shashi Tharoor’s video address to an Indo-Pakistan entrepreneurs' event in Islamabad was abruptly cut off after he lambasted the Pakistani government for ceasefire violations on the Line of Control and suggested the civilian administration did not control the military.
Though the event was billed as a peace initiative on the economic front, Minister for State for Human Resource Development Tharoor surprised many, including the Indian delegation, as he took on the Pakistani administration.
India is committed to resolve all issues with Pakistan, including the Kashmir dispute, through dialogue on the basis of the Simla Agreement but an environment free from terror and violence is needed for this, he said. "However, the Mumbai attacks five years ago and the recent LoC incidents have shown a gap between Pakistan's official statement and military’s action...(This) suggests the civilian government, even if sincere, is not entirely in control of the security apparatus," he said in the pre-recorded speech.
Tharoor began his address by emphasising the need to strengthen bilateral trade but later took a harder line and suggested what the Pakistani government should do. "It will help the Pakistan government, facing home-grown terrorists even as they export terror to neighbours," if there is more willingness to join the quest for peace, he said.
"The moment the Pakistani establishment genuinely discards terrorism as an instrument of state policy, the prospect of peace will dawn on the subcontinent."
Tharoor said Pakistan was "unfortunately" pursuing the flawed policy of selectively targeting some terrorists and extremists and "ignoring or actively supporting others".
Unlike in Pakistan, the Indian Army does not "make foreign policy", which is the prerogative of the elected civilian government that is determined to engage in dialogue, he told the audience of about 300 at Jinnah Auditorium.
The atmosphere in the auditorium became a bit tense during Tharoor's speech and the video was cut off after about nine minutes.
The audience included 22 Indian delegates and officials of the Indian high commission, including envoy T C A Raghavan.
Pakistan's policy for tackling terrorism is undermining its own internal security and endangering peace and security in the neighbourhood, Tharoor contended.
What was needed is "sincere acceptance by the Pakistani military establishment that those who attacked the Taj (Hotel) in Mumbai are just as much their enemy like those who bombed the Marriott in Islamabad", he said.
Shaban Khalid, president of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry that organised the event, said the atmosphere had soured as a platform for peace was used for making "political speeches".
Later, one of the leaders of the Indian delegation said that whatever be the government's official position, the young entrepreneurs were in Pakistan to promote peace. This was greeted by a huge round of applause.
Before being cut short, Tharoor said India does not accept arguments that transgressions on the LoC or incidents of unprovoked firing are the handiwork of non-state actors. "Everything along the LoC is firmly under the control of the army on both sides," he said.
Tharoor said it troubles India that the Pakistan government is "either unable or unwillingly to act against terrorists and militants emanating from their territory, the so called non-state actors that are said to be out of its control".
Firing across the LoC has gone up in recent weeks and "cannot certainly be attributed to non-state actors", he said. Progress in the investigation and trial of seven Pakistanis accused of involvement in the Mumbai attacks is an important step by which India will judge Pakistan's commitment to combat terrorism on its soil.
"The case has moved at a glacial pace. The trial has been subjected to repeated adjournments due to non-appearance of lawyers and frequent changes of prosecution lawyers," he said.
"Pakistan must show tangible movement in bringing all those responsible for the Mumbai attacks, including those on trial, to justice quickly."
Continued terrorism from Pakistan remains a core concern for India and it is critical for the region that Islamabad takes determined action to dismantle all terror networks, organisations and infrastructure within its territory. "Pakistan must also uphold the sanctity of the LoC, which is the most important confidence-building measure between two countries. This includes ending unprovoked firing on our posts, and ending repeated transgressions at the LoC by the Pakistani army...," he said. He also pitched for talks with Pakistan, saying, "Not talking to Pakistan is not much of a policy which has been tried for years."