Hours after Pakistan announced its decision to approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the Narendra Modi government's decision to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir, top diplomat Syed Akbaruddin on Tuesday said that India was ready to fight its regional rival in any arena of its choice.
"Every country is entitled to use every course available to them. We have different approaches too. If they would like to tackle us in different arenas, we will address it in that arena. This is an arena of their choice. They tried once, but they did not succeed," Mr Akbaruddin, who is India's permanent representative in the United Nations, told NDTV.
He was referring to the recent face-off between India and Pakistan in the ICJ over the death sentence handed to former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav on charges of "espionage and terrorism" two years ago. In its verdict delivered last month, the world court asked Pakistan to make an "effective review and reconsideration" of the death penalty and grant Mr Jadhav consular access as demanded by India.
Pakistan's cause faced another defeat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Friday, when "all-weather ally" China pushed for closed-door consulations on the Kashmir issue. However, the hour-long event ended without any outcome or statement from the world body, dealing a huge blow to Pakistan's efforts to internationalise the issue. India maintains that its decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 and bifurcate it into two union territories is a "strictly internal matter".
Mr Akbaruddin termed the lack of evident support for Pakistan at the UNSC meet as a snub to its stand on Kashmir. "What happened last week was an informal consultation, which actually made it quite clear to everyone that India's approach enjoys broad support globally.... We do hope that they will recalibrate, taking into account the outcome of that consulation," he said.
The diplomat, however, refused to comment on remarks from Union Ministers such as Jitendra Singh that India would push for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in future bilateral talks. "Let's take it step by step. We abide by the bilateral track put in place by the Shimla Agreement, and I haven't heard any response to this request. Is Pakistan interested in this bilateral track? Let's not jump the gun," Mr Akbaruddin said, describing himself as a mere "foot soldier who works in the trenches".
So, is he bothered by the recent talks between Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump? "Look at the engagement we have with several countries, including the United States. This covers not just political ties but the entire expanse of our ties. The world looks at India as a country with which it can engage on issues. That's our USP," said Mr Akbaruddin.
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