India Challenges Non-Aligned Countries to Condemn Terrorism ‘Unequivocally’
Addressing Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) foreign ministers meeting in Egypt Monday, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said the bloc must speak out against terrorism when heads of state gather for the group’s 15th summit in Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday.
“Terrorism threatens democracy and democratic values,” he said. “It is also a threat to international peace and security.”
“We call upon NAM members to unequivocally condemn terrorism – no cause or reasoning can be used to justify such acts,” Krishna continued. “In this context, the early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism being discussed in the U.N. is an immediate imperative.”
India in 1996 first presented at the U.N. a draft comprehensive convention on terrorism, a document supporters would like to see become a binding, enforceable instrument of international law.
Thirteen years later, it remains under discussion, mostly because of disagreement over how terrorism should be defined.
NAM, a grouping of 118 developing nations with its origins in the Cold War, includes among its members the remaining four countries listed by the U.S. State Department as state sponsors of terrorism, Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba. Cuba is the outgoing chairman of NAM, and Iran is due to take the top position in 2012.
It also includes 50 countries that are also members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a body that has repeatedly blocked attempts at the U.N. and elsewhere to come up with a clear definition of terrorism. The main reason for that stance is its argument that resistance against “foreign occupation” is not terrorism.
(In its own convention on combating international terrorism, produced in 1998, the OIC declared that “peoples’ struggle including armed struggle against foreign occupation … shall not be considered a terrorist crime.”)
The occupation reference is usually put forward in the context of the Palestinian campaign against Israel, but the fight against coalition troops in Iraq and Indian forces in Kashmir have also been cited.
Kashmir is a majority Muslim area divided between India and its historic rival Pakistan and claimed by both. India has been a major target of terrorism – both in the part of Kashmir which it controls and elsewhere in the country. New Delhi claims that the terrorists draw support from Pakistan; Pakistan has long denied this, saying it lends moral support only to the Kashmiris’ struggle for self determination.
India and Pakistan are both members of NAM, and previous NAM gatherings have seen them clash over the wording of declarations on Kashmir, with India pushing for use of the term “state-sponsored terrorism” and Pakistan wanting the inclusion of language like “liberation struggle.”
But there has been a shift since the last NAM summit, held three years ago in Havana.
Last November’s terror attack in Mumbai, which cost more than 170 lives, were found to have been planned on Pakistani soil. Islamabad, under pressure from India, the U.S. and other governments, and itself increasingly targeted by Islamist terrorists, began to act against militant groups based there.
Earlier this month, President Asif Ali Zardari was quoted as admitting, in a speech to former civil servants, that Pakistan had “created and nurtured” militant groups in years past.
“The terrorists of today were the heroes of yesteryears until 9/11 occurred and they began to haunt us as well,” he said. “They were deliberately created and nurtured as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives.”
After the Mumbai attack India suspended a peace process with Pakistan that had begun in 2004. It has demanded more action against the group blamed for the assault, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), before the process can resume. LeT was founded in the 1980s to fight against Indian control in Kashmir, and has operated freely inside Pakistan.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is due to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the NAM summit.
Egypt takes over the chairmanship of the grouping for the next three years, succeeding Cuba.