A fresh war of words has broken out between sparring neighbors India and Pakistan after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi labeled Pakistan a "mothership of terrorism." The remarks met an expected swift rebuke from Pakistan, which claimed Modi has been deliberately misleading.
The latest furor came amid the annual BRICS summit on Sunday, which gathered leaders from India, China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa. India is hosting the economic conference for 2016 in the western state of Goa. Modi used the platform to outline the threat of terrorism and what he believes is the biggest harbor of terrorists.
"In our own region, terrorism poses a grave threat to peace, security and development," Modi told fellow BRIC leaders. "Tragically, the mothership of terrorism is a country in India's neighborhood."
In his closing remarks, Modi added that the BRICS nations had agreed that "those who nurture, shelter, support and sponsor forces of violence and terror are as much a threat to us as terrorists themselves."
Tensions between the two nuclear powers have risen sharply in recent weeks following a Sept. 18 attack on an Indian army base in the disputed region of Kashmir, which killed 19. India blamed militants from Pakistan for the assault and said it later carried out retaliatory “surgical strikes” on a terror stronghold over the Line of Control that divides Kashmir. Pakistan both denies any role in the original attack and that India’s strikes even took place.
Pakistan struck back this weekend, too, raising the rhetoric yet further between two countries that have fought three wars over Kashmir since becoming independent states in 1947.
"Modi is misleading his BRICS and BIMSTEC [Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation] colleagues,” Sartaj Aziz, the adviser on foreign affairs to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said. "The Indian leadership is desperately trying to hide its brutalities in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, an internationally recognized dispute on the UN Security Council agenda, where innocent people are being killed and injured by the occupation forces daily with impunity."
And, while Modi stated that his stance had met agreement with his BRICS colleagues, China later came out in support of Pakistan.
"We also oppose the linking of terrorism to any specific country, ethnicity or religion," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hua Chunying said in Beijing when asked about Modi’s comments. This is China's consistent position. "Everyone knows that India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism. Pakistan has made huge efforts and great sacrifices in fighting terrorism. I think the international community should respect this."
China is a long-time ally of Pakistan and President Xi Jinping said that he felt "as if I am going to visit the home of my own brother," when he made his first visit to the country last year.