United Nations, March 9 (IANS) India on Thursday accused UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein of being "silent" on Pakistan's state sponsorship of terror - in an unusually strong and open criticism of the official.
"The central problem in Jammu and Kashmir is cross-border terrorism, and hence, we are a little surprised that the High Commissioner was silent regarding Pakistan that uses terrorism as an instrument of state policy," Ajit Kumar, India's Permanent Representative to the UN office in Geneva, told the UN Human Rights Council meeting in the Swiss city.
Kumar also took issue with Zeid for using the phrase "Indian-Administered Kashmir", which, he said was "artificial" while referring to the Indian state.
He was responding to Zeid, who had spoken of his office's "difficulty in obtaining access" to Jammu and Kashmir.
While presenting his annual report to the annual meeting of the Human Rights Council on Wednesday, Zeid mentioned "both sides of the Line of Control in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir" among areas where the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) could not get access.
Kumar said, "The whole state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan remains in illegal occupation of a part of our territory. The two cannot and should not be equated.
"The neutrality of the phrase 'Indian-Administered Kashmir' is, therefore, artificial. Furthermore, the State of Jammu and Kashmir has an elected democratic government that represents all sections of the people, unlike the situation in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir."
While acknowledging "the role sought to be played by the OHCHR in effective promotion and protection of human rights", he questioned the way it went about it.
"More would be gained if primacy were accorded to cooperation over confrontation with the States concerned," he said.
Kumar said that "the robust and mature Indian democracy" had proved again that it had the strength and the mechanisms to deal with internal problems resulting from external incitement.
"Normalcy has returned as 99 per cent of the students of Jammu and Kashmir have taken their high school examinations and schools have reopened," he said.
Last week, Pakistan's Law Minister Zahid Hamid had also brought up Zeid's request to send a team to Kashmir.
Replying to Hamid's statement, Kumar accused Islamabad of being the "epicentre" of terrorism and carrying out "an intense campaign to destabilise" Jammu and Kashmir through "infiltration and cross-border terrorism; inciting, promoting and glorifying violence".
Last year during the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, Zeid cited "grave concerns about recent allegations of serious human rights violations" and asked India and Pakistan to allow a team from his office to visit Kashmir.
India, which holds that Kashmir developments are an internal matter of India, did not respond to his request.
Pakistan said if India allowed in the OHCHR team, it would also permit it to visit the part of Kashmir it occupies.
In his speech in Geneva on Wednesday, Zeid mentioned Ethiopia, Syria, south-east regions of Turkey and Venezuela along with Kashmir as areas where OHCR faced difficulty in obtaining access.
He went on to say, "In several areas where we have received indications of severe violations and where access has been refused, my office has begun remote monitoring and (deploying) fact-finding mission to neighbouring countries." It was not clear if this applied to Jammu and Kashmir also.
Zeid did make a general statement on terrorism, but avoided mentioning state-sponsorship. "This past year has witnessed considerable bloodshed at the hands of extremists and terrorist groups and I take this opportunity to once again strongly condemn all such violations in every instance."
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com)