New Delhi/ Abu dhabi: In a major diplomatic achievement, India on Friday for the first time addressed the OIC meeting in Abu Dhabi, and asserted that the war against terrorism, which was destabilising regions and putting the world at great peril, was not against any religion.
India’s participation came despite strong demand by Pakistan to rescind the invitation to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to address the grouping of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which was turned down by the host UAE, resulting in Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi boycotting the plenary.
“Terrorism and extremism bear different names and labels. It uses diverse causes. But in each case, it 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,” Ms Swaraj, who is the first Indian minister to address the meeting of the 57 Islamic countries, said.
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, a senior minister in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet who later became President, was invited to attend the Rabat conference in 1969 and then disinvited at Pakistan’s instance after he arrived in the Moroccan capital. Since then, India has been excluded from all OIC deliberations.
Ms Swaraj during her address read a verse from the Holy Koran which says La Ikrah fiddeen — Let there be no compulsion in religion. And Sura Al Hujurat says ‘O Mankind! We created you from a single pair of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know one another, not that you may despise one another’.”
“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 and brotherhood,” she said.
In a veiled attack on Pakistan, Ms Swaraj said countries “who provide shelter and funding to the terrorists” should be globally told “to dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist camps and stop providing funding and shelter to the terror organisations based in their country”.
In comments significant in the context of the Indo-Pak tension after the Pulwama attack, Ms Swaraj pointed out that “terrorism is destroying lives, destabilising regions, and putting the world at great peril”, adding that as its victims “in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and, India, we see the terrible face of terror”.
She added “this menace could not be fought, only through military, intelligence or diplomatic means” but “through the strengths of our values, and the real message of religion”.
Significantly, in a marked departure from the hostility between India and the OIC as a forum previously due to the Kashmir issue, Ms. Swaraj, in a new beginning, hailed the OIC as “an organisation, that has a key role in shaping our world”, adding that “It is therefore a matter of pride for me, and for India, to be invited in this special year, to be your guest of honour, and to be extended a hand of friendship.” New Delhi also made sure to reach out and appreciate individual several Islamic countries such as close west Asian friends Saudi Arabia and host UAE, close friends in the neighbourhood Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran and the Maldives, and even Pakistan’s trusted friend Turkey.
India also did not forget to mention its solidarity with the Palestinian cause which has always been a key issue within the OIC.
There was also no mention of the Kashmir issue nor any direct reference to Pakistan which for the past five decades had poisoned India’s ties with the OIC till now.
Referring to the diversity in India including in its 185 million Muslims who live in peace with their fellow-countrymen, she said that “very few Muslims in India have fallen prey to the poisonous propaganda of radical and extremist ideologies”....