New Delhi, March 1: Amid ongoing Indo-Pak tensions, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj raised the issue of terrorism at the foreign ministers’ conference of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and called on the influential group to ask countries that harbour terrorist organisations to dismantle the terror infrastructure in their countries.
“If we want to save humanity then we must tell the states who provide shelter and funding to terrorists to dismantle the infrastructure of the terror camps and stop providing shelter and funding to terror organisations in their countries,” said Swaraj, who is the guest of honour at the OIC meet in Abu Dhabi.
Her remark delivered in her opening address to the OIC, an influential grouping of 57 Islamic countries of which India is neither a member nor an observer, was apparently directed at Pakistan which India has repeatedly accused of nurturing and sheltering terrorist organisations that target the neighbourhood.
Pakistan did not attend the meeting citing objection to India’s presence at the OIC meet.
“Terrorism is destroying lives, destabilising regions and putting the world at great peril. The reach of terror is growing, its lethality is increasing and the toll it is taking is rising,” she said, while naming the regions across the world including Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India, where “we see the terrible face of terror”.
The EAM said that the menace of terrorism cannot be fought only through military, intelligence and diplomatic means.
“It is a battle that must be won through the strength of our values and the real message of religions,” she said, adding that there needs to be an all-round conversation between faiths and cultures.
Swaraj, the first Indian leader to address the exclusive group of mostly Muslim-majority countries, pointed out that in each case terrorism is driven by distortion of religion and a misguided belief in its power to succeed.
“The fight against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion, it cannot be. Just as Islam means peace, none of the 99 names of Allah mean violence. Similarly every religion stands for peace,” she underlined.
The EAM cited verses from various religious holy books to drive home the point that all religions preach tolerance.
“This is not a clash of civilisations or culture but a contest of ideas and ideals,” she said.
Highlighting the religious diversity and inclusivity of India’s culture, the EAM said that it is the “appreciation of diversity and coexistence that has ensured that very few Muslims in India have fallen prey to the poisonous propaganda of radical and extremist ideologies”.
At the same time, the EAM said that the youth of the world are eager to see faster development. She said that the choices made by OIC will have a profound impact on humanity and called on the organisation to lift humanity to a “higher level of peace and prosperity” not just for “your people but for the world”.
At the gathering, Swaraj pointed out that the OIC members constitute 1/4th of the United Nations and almost a quarter of humanity.
“India shares much with you. Many of us have shared dark days of colonialism,” she said.
Swaraj ended her address with a reference to Mahatma Gandhi.
“I come from land of Mahatma Gandhi where every prayer ends with call for ‘shanti’ that is peace for all,” she said.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister of United Arab Emirates, invited Swaraj as the ‘guest of honour’ to address the inaugural plenary.
Pakistan, an OIC member, had tried to get the group withdraw the invite extended to India but failed. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi then said he will not attend the meeting.
The OIC has usually been supportive of Pakistan and often sided with Islamabad on the Kashmir issue. India was disinvited by the OIC in 1969 in Morocco at Pakistan’s behest.