UNITED NATIONS: India strongly condemns the killing of Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Danish Siddiqui in Afghanistan, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said at the UN Security Council on Friday as he expressed serious concern over the violence against humanitarian workers in situations of armed conflict.
Speaking at the Security Council briefing on 'Protection of Civilians in armed conflict: Preserving humanitarian space', Shringla said the 'Dharma-based norms' for armed conflict in ancient India had rules protecting civilians during conflict and in a 'Dharma-yuddha', civilians were not attacked but protected.
He said in a Dharma-yuddha or 'righteous war', civilians were not attacked, but had to be protected.
"The Dharma-based norms for armed conflict in ancient India were founded on the principle of humanity and humanitarian norms and had many rules protecting civilians during conflict. High importance was attached to distinguishing combatants and non-combatants during armed conflicts," he said.
"We condemn the killing of Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui while he was on a reporting assignment in Kandahar in Afghanistan yesterday. I extend our sincerest condolences to his bereaved family," Shringla said.
Siddiqui, 38, was on assignment in Afghanistan when he died.
The award-winning journalist was killed while covering clashes between Afghan troops and the Taliban in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar city.
He was injured on Thursday night while accompanying Afghan soldiers who were attacked and succumbed to his injuries on Friday.
Siddiqui won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 as part of the Reuters team for their coverage of the Rohingya crisis.
He had extensively covered the Afghanistan conflict, the Hong Kong protests and other major events in Asia, Middle East, and Europe.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said he was "deeply saddened with the shocking reports" that Siddiqui was killed while covering the Taliban atrocities in Kandahar.
"While I extend my heartfelt condolences to Siddiqui's family and also to our media family, I reiterate my government's unwavering commitment to freedom of speech and protection of free media and journalists," Ghani said.
Shringla said the humanitarian law principles found their existence in India long before modern humanitarian jurisprudence evolved.
India has followed the path of 'Dharma' or 'righteous conduct' and provided refuge to persecuted people over centuries.
"While international humanitarian law, as we see it today, has its genesis in the recent past, civilizations and cultures throughout history have developed rules of warfare for the protection of non-combatants and civilian populations," he said, adding that the world today is engulfed in a range of humanitarian crises.
"Most of these are caused by armed conflicts that severely impact the lives of millions of innocent civilians. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this situation," he said.
Shringla voiced serious concern over the violence against humanitarian workers in situations of armed conflict.
Extending condolences to the families of the 99 humanitarian workers who were reported to be killed over the last year, he said India strongly condemns attacks against humanitarian personnel and asserted that ensuring accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian law remains one of the key challenges before us.
"States must accord high priority to addressing this issue. We should assist national authorities in developing capabilities and capacities to strengthen their national legal frameworks and related structures to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators," he said.
Shringla noted that the Member States must take all measures to implement Security Council resolutions 2175 (2014) and 2286 (2016) to ensure the protection of humanitarian personnel and actors.
Resolution 2175 (2014) strongly condemns all forms of violence and intimidation, including "murder, rape and sexual assault, armed robbery, abduction, hostage-taking, kidnapping, harassment and illegal arrest and detention to which those participating in humanitarian operations are increasingly exposed, as well as attacks on humanitarian convoys and acts of destruction and looting of their assets."