India said on Thursday that it desired normal relations with all its neighbours, including Pakistan, and advised Islamabad to create a conducive atmosphere, including by taking "credible, verifiable and irreversible actions" to stop cross border terrorism against it and enable the two countries to engage and address issues bilaterally.
Describing Pakistan as the "global epicentre of terrorism," Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakashi Lekhi said the neighbouring country continues to be the source of terrorist activities, including in India.
Lekhi's strong statement came after Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif raised the Kashmir issue in his address to the 6th Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Astana, Kazakhstan.
In his address, Sharif said that he was ”willing” to engage with India, but asserted that the onus remains on New Delhi to take the necessary steps ”for meaningful and result-oriented engagement”. He also accused India of human rights violations in Kashmir.
Hitting back, Lekhi said Pakistan has no locus standi to comment on India's internal affairs. "Pakistan's remarks today constitute gross interference in India's internal affairs, sovereignty and territorial integrity...,” she said.
"Pakistan continues to make no investment in human development but provides their resources for creating and sustaining infrastructure of terrorism," she told the summit.
In her address, Lekhi said India desired normal relations with all its neighbours, including Pakistan.
"Pakistan is thereby advised to walk the talk by creating a conducive atmosphere, including by taking credible, verifiable and irreversible actions to not allow any territory under its control to be used for cross border terrorism against India in any manner,” she said.
This will enable the two countries to engage and address issues bilaterally rather than distract this important international forum from its agenda of cooperation, she said.
She said it was unfortunate that Pakistan has "chosen to once again misuse the CICA platform to propagate false and malicious propaganda against my country and distract from the theme and focus of today's discussions and cooperation among member States.”
She said the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been and will remain an integral part of India.
She also asked Pakistan to immediately cease anti-India cross-border terrorism and shut down its infrastructure of terrorism.
"It will do well to stop the grave and persistent human rights violations in Pakistan occupied Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh (PoJKL); refrain from effecting any further material changes in the status of PoJKL; and vacate the Indian territories that are under its illegal and forcible occupation,” she said.
She said terrorism remains the biggest challenge and threat to peace and continues to be the biggest violator of human rights in all its forms.
"Terrorism like climate change and pandemics impacts us all. India follows a zero-tolerance approach towards terror and unequivocally condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including cross border terrorism,” she said.
For many decades, India has been affected particularly by the menace of cross-border terrorism sustained through financial, political and moral support of some states, she added.
On Pakistan's record of the treatment of minority communities, she said this is a country where religious and ethnic minorities are systematically persecuted.
"The frequent instances of attack and vandalism on the places of worship of minority communities in Pakistan and the countless cases of abduction, forced conversion and marriage of minor girls from minority communities in Pakistan are evidence of the vulnerable status of minorities in this country,” she said.
A day earlier, India slammed Pakistan for raising the Kashmir issue during an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly on the Ukraine conflict in New York, saying such statements by Islamabad deserve the "collective contempt" of the international community and "sympathy for a mindset which repeatedly utters falsehoods".
In his remarks to the UNGA emergency special session that was convened on the Ukrainian conflict, Pakistan's ambassador to the UN Munir Akram had raised the issue of Kashmir.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been strained over the Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
Bilateral ties nosedived after India abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the state into two Union territories on August 5, 2019.
Following India's decision, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian envoy. Trade ties between Pakistan and India have largely been frozen since then.
India has repeatedly told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.