NEW YORK: The nations which use the "facade of human rights" to sponsor terror are "hypocrites of the worst kind", Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar said, in a veiled reference to Pakistan.
In the city to lead India's 70th Independence Day celebrations, Akbar asserted that India is a nation which believes in "faith equality" and not faith "supremacy" as he called terrorism a major threat to human rights.
"Terrorism is the biggest enemy of human rights. Those who use the facade of human rights in order to sponsor barbaric terrorism are hypocrites of the worst kind," Akbar told PTI here.
"We (India) do not believe in faith supremacy. Nations created in the name of faith supremacy are coming apart along the fault lines of a failed idea," he said yesterday after unfurling the tricolour at the Indian Consulate in a ceremony attended by several members of the Indian community.
"That is why Bangladesh happened in 1971 and that is why Balochistan is simmering now," the journalist-turned- politician said on his maiden visit to the US after assuming charge.
Akbar's remarks came on a day when back home, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also referred to Pakistan's atrocities in the restive Balochistan province and the PoK, prompting a sharp reaction from across the border.
In his address to the community members, Akbar said India represents the very essence of human rights.
"This is the moment to tell the world and ourselves that the greatest enemy of human rights is terrorist and terrorism.
"Faith equality emerges from the ancient philosophy of our nation. The challenge to civilisation and the challenge to stability is coming from those, including in our neighbourhood, who believe in faith supremacy rather than in faith equality, who believe that one faith is supreme or superior to others," he said, in another veiled reference to Pakistan.
He underscored that India believes in freedom and equality for every faith not just before the law but in society as well, adding that freedom is not simply the right to vote but it is the right to express oneself everyday.
"In India, I am a proud Indian Muslim and in my country the Azaan has been heard for 1,400 years and shall be heard for 1,400 years. It emerges out of the belief and will of the Indian people," he said.
Akbar noted the Indian Constitution, created under the "inspiration" of Mahatma Gandhi and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, represents a "template" of modernity, a template for the future and for the whole world.
"Freedom is engrained in our Constitution. Nobody can take away our freedom," he said.
"Our mission for the next 70 years is very clear. It is to turn India and put it on the high table of prosperity not just for some but prosperity for all. That is true nationalism," he said.
He highlighted that India's Constitution is built on the pillars of economic equity and gender equality.
"Around us we have seen gender regression. You cannot be a modern nation anymore if you do not have gender equality. The days of making women into second class citizens is over and it cannot be sustained," he said.
On economic equity, Akbar reiterated Modi's clarion call that the days of poverty alleviation are over and the era of poverty elimination has begun.
"The poorest of the poor must feel they are part of the narrative of our rising prosperity. And the first benefits of prosperity belong to them. This is the mission that Prime Minister Modi has set for our nation for the foreseeable future," he said.
Later in the day, Akbar, along with Das, rang the closing bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange in the heart of the popular Times Square to mark India's 70th Independence Day.
"I am delighted that NASDAQ is closing positive today. India has always opened positive for business. It is today an occasion for the world's largest economy to harmonise with the world's fastest growing economy.
"I promise you that the partnership is really good news for the world," he said before he rang the closing bell.
India's Independence Day has been commemorated at NASDAQ, the second-largest exchange in the world by market capitalisation behind only the New York Stock Exchange, for the last seven years now, with Consul Generals and visiting dignitaries being invited by the stock exchange to ring the ceremonial opening and closing bells.
Pictures of Modi's visits to the US, including his address at Madison Square garden, his meeting with US President Barack Obama and his senior ministers, with Facebook CEO mark Zuckerberg were splashed across huge screens near NASDAQ.
India's national emblem and the tricolour were also displayed on NASDAQ's facade along with images of Akbar and Das ringing the closing bell.
Akbar will head to Beirut, Damascus and Iraq after wrapping up his US visit and is scheduled to hold a series of meetings of leadership in the countries, including Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
Security issues and combating the growing threat of ISIS will be the focus of his talks with the leadership during his visit.