India ripped into Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday calling him out for glorifying the 22-year old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
"It is shocking that a leader of a free nation can glorify a self-declared terrorist. This is self-incrimination by Pakistan," Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar told a press conference in New York.
Sharif's 20-minute speech, quite incendiary in tone was aimed at Indian paramilitary forces in Kashmir which he accused of using excessive force. He used the UN platform to accord martyr status to Wani, a separatist leader who advocated a Kashmir free of both Indian and Pakistani rule. Sharif described Wani as a “young leader murdered by Indian forces” who has become the “symbol of the latest Kashmiri intifada."
Tensions between India and Pakistan are boiling over after Sunday's terrorist assault in Uri. With 18 soldiers dead, Prime Minister Narendra Modi should toughen India’s stance against Pakistan and its sponsorship of militancy in the Kashmir valley.
India has a few military options that it could consider against Pakistan. It could attempt a surgical artillery strike on Pakistani army positions which are used to help militants cross over into parts of Kashmir, military experts say. A second option on the table would be sending special forces inside Pakistan to attack guerrilla training camps.
Indian forces killed at least 8 suspected Islamic militants along the 800 kilometre border with Pakistan, ahead of Sharif's rambling speech on Wednesday to the UN General Assembly. More skirmishes are widely expected on the troubled Kashmir border.
Responding to Sharif's claim that Pakistan has "gone the extra mile and repeatedly offered dialogue," Akbar tartly replied, "We haven't seen the first mile, where is the question of the extra mile?"
"Pakistan wants dialogue while holding a gun in its hand. Talks and guns don't go together," said Akbar.
"We have always been ready for dialogue, but will not succumb to a government of blackmail that uses terrorism as a policy," he added.
For the last 15 years, India has followed the course of "strategic restraint" despite mounting public anger after the 2008 Mumbai attacks carried out by Pakistani militants that left 166 dead. Instead, New Delhi has used international gatherings like the UN platform in New York to highlight Pakistani support of terrorists.
India was heartened that despite Sharif's repeated appeals for UN intervention in Kashmir, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made no reference to Kashmir in his last address to the 71-year-old institution.
"The terrorist tag clung even harder to Pakistan following the arrest of the New York serial bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami who was radicalized after extended stays in Pakistan. The episode has brought further attention to the terrorist eco-system in Pakistan selectively fostered by its military and political elite," wrote Chidanand Rajghatta in The Times of India.
The United States has finally run out of patience with Pakistan and has been sending a message to Sharif. It has seen so much double-dealing by Pakistan in Afghanistan that it is now far more sympathetic to the Indian position, said Myra MacDonald, a South Asia specialist.
President Barack Obama refused to meet with the Pakistani prime minister before his UN address. Two American lawmakers on Tuesday also introduced legislation in the US Congress aimed at designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism in a humiliating setback to Islamabad ahead of Sharif's speech.
"Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the United States for years. From harboring Osama bin Laden to its cozy relationship with the Haqqani network, there is more than enough evidence to determine whose side Pakistan is on in the War on Terror. And it's not America's," Congressman Ted Poe from Texas said bluntly while announcing the bill.
"It is time we stop paying Pakistan for its betrayal and designate it for what it is: a state sponsor of terrorism," Poe added.
According to author and South Asia expert Sumit Ganguly, the United States is much more willing to cut Pakistan loose after learning hard lessons about Pakistan's support of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
"Pakistan is of far lesser significance to the United States today than it was in 2008. The circumstances are markedly different and consequently there is much less interest in coddling Pakistan," said South Asia expert Sumit Ganguly, who holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilisations at Indiana University in Bloomington.