New Delhi: Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Friday at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that states have to be told to dismantle terrorist infrastructure and stop support for terror organisations. She also asserted that India and OIC members have a lot of common history and values.
Sushma Swaraj delivered a speech at the inaugural plenary of the OIC council of ministers meeting in Abu Dhabi as the ‘guest of honour’ on the invitation of the host, the United Arab Emirates. This is the first time that India has been invited to attend a meeting of the OIC bloc.
Earlier on Friday, the Pakistan foreign ministry announced that it will not be attending as India has no “legal or moral grounds to be present at the meeting”.
India’s attendance at OIC comes in the midst of a stand-off with Pakistan after Indian fighter jets went inside Pakistani territory to target a terror camp in Balakot on February 26. In retaliation, Pakistani jets intruded into Indian territory on February 27 and dropped bombs.
In her speech, Sushma thanked the UAE for the invitation, but also specifically acknowledged Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh for backing India’s presence.
At the start of her speech, Swaraj said she carried the greeting of “1.3 billion Indians, including more than 185 million Muslim brothers and sisters”.
“Muslims brothers and sisters are a microcosm of the diversity of India itself,” she added.
Speaking different languages, having diverse culinary and cultural traditions, “they practice their respective beliefs and live in harmony with each other and with their non-Muslim brethren.”
This diversity and co-existence has “ensured that very few Muslims in India have fallen prey to the poisonous propaganda of radical and extremist ideologies”.
Addressing the OIC member states, Swaraj said, “India shares much with you”.
Starting with the fight against colonialism, Swaraj listed the joint struggle to “fashion global institutions, into representative platforms” and ensure equitable access to resources and markets as part of common struggles between OIC member states and India.
“And, with so many nations here, India has forged deep bonds of friendship and close partnerships,” Swaraj noted, as she made specific reference to India’s ties with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Turkey.
“In West Asia, our solidarity with the aspirations of the Palestinian people have remained unwavering,” she claimed.
Sitting next to UAE and other Arab nations, Swaraj said that India not only shared civilisational and cultural links with Iran, but also shared a “a partnership, that is vital for stability and prosperity in our region.”
The minister also highlighted India’s growing engagement with the Gulf, Central Asia and Africa.
“As India’s economy has grown and become more integrated with the world, these partnerships have become stronger. We have excellent political ties, marked by warmth, respect and goodwill. With many, we have expanding defence and security cooperation.”
Without naming Pakistan, the Indian foreign minister stated, “If we want to save humanity, then we must tell states who provide shelter and funding to terrorists to dismantle terror infrastructure of terrorist camps and stop funding and shelter to the terror organisations based in that country.”
She underlined that it was not a “clash of civilisations or cultures”, but a contest of ideas and ideals.
“The fight against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion. It cannot be. Just as Islam literally means peace, none of the 99 names of Allah mean violence. Similarly, every religion in the world stands for peace, compassion & brotherhood,” she added.
In her speech, Swaraj quoted from the Holy Quran, Guru Nanak, Rig Veda, Swami Vivekanand and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on diversity and plurality.
From the Quran, she quoted, “La ikrah fiddeen (Let there be no compulsion in religion).”
She said that the menace of terrorism cannot be fought just through military, intelligence or diplomatic means, but through values and real message of religions. “This is a task that states, societies, sages, scholars, spiritual leaders and families must pursue, through personal contacts and on social media.”
She said that India was willing to work with the OIC to combat extremism, advocate moderation, promote respect for different faiths, spread the true meaning of religion, inspire youth and build a bridge of understanding between cultures and religions.
Pointing out that that the youth were impatient for development, she said, “It must be our common objective to ensure, that we leave them a world, that is infinitely better in terms of equitable economic growth and social justice, than the one, we inherited.”
Flattering her hosts, Swaraj said that this mission “has brought us together in Abu Dhabi, a city that has matured into a landmark of Asia and the world”.
Describing India as the third largest economy on purchasing power parity, Swaraj said, “We are prepared to share our market, resources, opportunities, and skills with our partners. We will do what we can within our capacity to ensure that the path to development remains open to all and the global trade regime is open, stable and fair.”
She concluded her speech by stating that she came from the “the land of Mahatma Gandhi, where every prayer ends with the call for Shanti or Peace for all”.