Manama: India and the Arab League on Sunday vowed to combat terrorism and called for developing a strategy to “eliminate” its sources and extremism including its funding as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made a strong pitch for delinking religion from terrorism.
While addressing the 1st Ministerial Meeting of Arab-India Cooperation Forum here in the Bahraini capital, she also warned that those who “silently sponsor” terror groups could end up being used by them.
“Those who believe that silent sponsorship of such terrorist groups can bring rewards must realise that they have their own agenda; they are adept at using the benefactor more effectively than the sponsor has used them,” Swaraj told some 14 Foreign Ministers of the 22-member Arab League grouping, with its Secretary General Nabil El Araby in attendance.
She said that today’s meeting marks a “turning point” for India-Arab relations while pointing out that “we are also at a major turning point in history when the forces of terrorism and violent extremism are seeking to destabilise societies and inflict incalculable damage to our cities, our people and our very social fabric”.
“Equally, we must delink religion from terror. The only distinction is between those who believe in humanity and those who do not. Terrorists use religion, but inflict harm on people of all faiths,” said Swaraj, who arrived here on Saturday on a two-day visit.
The two sides condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and rejected associating terrorism with any religion, culture or ethnic group.
They emphasised the need for concerted regional and international efforts to combat terrorism and to address its causes and to develop a strategy to eliminate the sources of terrorism and extremism including its funding, as well as combating organised cross-border crime. In the ‘Manama Declaration’, the countries affirmed the need to achieve a “comprehensive and permanent solution” to the Palestine issue and called for implementation of the two-state principle on the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestine State with Occupied East Jerusalem as its capital, living peace side by side with Israel.
She cited “India’s model of unity in diversity” as an example for the world to counter indoctrination and radicalisation. Her reference to India’s religious and cultural diversity at the world stage assumes significance as it comes in the backdrop of the intolerance debate that had raged recently in the country, with many writers, artists and civil society members expressing alarm over the issue.
“We in India have citizens who belong to every existing faith. Our Constitution is committed to the fundamental principle of faith-equality: the equality of all faiths not just before the law but also in daily behaviour.
“In every corner of my country, the music of the azaan welcomes the dawn, followed by the chime of a Hanuman temple’s bells, followed by the melody of the Guru Granth Sahib being recited by priests in a gurdwara, followed by the peal of church bells every Sunday,” she said.
“This philosophy is not just a construct of our Constitution, adopted in 1950; it is the essence of our ancient belief that the world is family,” she asserted.
She stressed that dangers of radicalisation and indoctrination cannot be ignored.
“We have seen repeatedly that terrorism does not respect national borders. It seeks to subvert societies through its pernicious doctrine of a clash of civilisations,” Swaraj said.
“The only antidote to this violent philosophy is the path of peace, tolerance and harmony, a path that was illustrated centuries ago by Buddha and Mahavira and which was taken into the modern age by the Father of our nation Mahatma Gandhi. As he famously said, ‘an eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind’,” she said.
Before wrapping up her second visit to Bahrain as the External Affairs Minister, Swaraj also called on Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.
She also held a bilateral meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir and discussed an entire gamut of bilateral ties.
Swaraj’s strong push for anti-terror cooperation comes at a time when there have been a spate of terror attacks across the globe from the Paris carnage and the Pathankot air base assault to the blasts in Indonesia as terrorism has risen as one of the most significant challenges of the world.
“As the spectre of terrorism and religious hatred raises its ugly head across the world, particularly in those cherished cities of history, it is time once again to reach back in time and redeem the essence of our civilisational spirit.We must pledge to halt the physical violence that has spread like a plague,” Swaraj said.
She stressed on the need for equally addressing the violence in our minds, a poison that has been spread by terror groups, harnessing the power of modern technology and social media platforms to infect our youth.
“We should not underestimate the power of this illusion, clothed in a false interpretation of faith,” she asserted.