In calling Modi, the “butcher of Gujarat” Pakistan’s foreign minister shuts door on any bilateral talks

Mayank Chhaya-

Mayank Chayya

By calling India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi “the butcher of Gujarat”, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has effectively shut the door on any meaningful revival of bilateral talks for the foreseeable future. He has also deliberately steered bilateral diplomacy into choppy seas.

While at it, he also took an unambiguous shot at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological backbone of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Bhutto Zardari’s unvarnished characterization of Modi came during a news conference at the United Nations yesterday where he said, “I would like to remind the honorable minister of external affairs of India, that Osama Bin Laden is dead, but the butcher of India lives. And he is the prime minister of India. He was banned from entering this country until he became the Prime Minister. This is the Prime Minister of the RSS  and the Foreign Minister of the RSS. What is the RSS? The RSS takes inspiration from Hitler’s SS.”

Bhutto Zardari’s comments came after India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said this during his address to the U.N. security Council: “While we search for the best solutions, what are those that we must never accept include the normalization of such threats. The question of justifying what the world regards as unacceptable should not even arise. It certainly applies to states’ sponsorship of cross-border terrorism. Nor can hosting Osama Bin Laden and attacking a neighboring Parliament can serve as credentials for sermonizing before this council.”

Bhutto Zardari also said that the RSS does not believe in the ideology of Gandhi, adding ‘they hero worship the terrorist that assassinated Gandhi’. He also claimed that terrorism in Gujarat and Kashmir is being fomented by the RSS and BJP. Bhutto held up a binder which he said was a “dossier” containing evidence of India’s involvement in the Johar Town blast in Lahore in June 2021.

Notwithstanding his incendiary comments, the Pakistan foreign minister insisted, somewhat sarcastically, that there was no war of words, and he did not expect any escalation in bilateral tensions.

His observations come against the backdrop of renewed border tensions between India and China. The rise was highlighted by a video purported to be of the clashes on the China-India border in the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh along the Line of Actual Control – the de facto border between the two countries – on September 28, 2021. This came to light even as reports came of a fresh brawl between Indian and Chinese troops in Tawang.

The two countries share some 2100 miles of border which is often the scene of tensions between their troops. While the Indian government has remained generally muted about the tensions, the main opposition Congress Party’s most high-profile leader, Rahul Gandhi said at a news conference that he was certain that China was preparing for a war even as the Modi government was “sleeping.”

There is nothing to suggest that Bhutto Zardari timed his comments to coincide with India-China tensions but given that Pakistan is practically a satellite state of China because of its heavy economic dependence on Beijing, it is an interesting turn of events.

There are no prospects of Pakistan, severely ravaged by recent floods with its economy being in the doldrum, doing much more than engage in verbal saber-rattling of the kind displayed by Bhutto Zardari. However, in so much as it gives a glimpse into his ministry’s gloves-off approach matched in kind by its Indian counterpart, no one expects the two perpetually squabbling nuclear powers to lower the temperature anytime soon.

Of course, there is nothing new in Bhutto Zardari describing Modi as the “butcher of Gujarat”. He was known to maintain that position much before he became the country’s foreign minister. It is a construct that works well for him from the standpoint of his domestic political constituency.

At the same time though, it is unlikely that his boss, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif shares his view of Modi at least publicly. Modi had struck up a particularly warm relationship with his older brother, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif soon after the former took office the first time around in 2014.

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