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 in the Bahraini capital, she also warned that those who “silently sponsor” terror groups could end up being used by them, in an apparent jibe at Pakistan.
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“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.
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She said that Sunday’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 in Manama 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 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.