National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has proposed to his counterparts of the BRICS countries to step up anti-terror cooperation and put in place a legal regime, without getting entangled on the issue of “definition of terrorism”.
This is key to resolving the issue behind the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) and Indian officials are working with fellow negotiators from BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — to re-introduce CCIT in the Goa declaration and give it a political push. The declaration will be issued Sunday at the end of the BRICS summit.
Officials told The Indian Express that Doval’s suggestion has “gained some traction” among top officials from the BRICS countries, and that is critical to deal with the logjam on CCIT. Doval had made this suggestion during the September meeting of the BRICS NSAs in New Delhi.
The CCIT was dropped at the BRICS 2015 statement in Ufa (Russia), although it was part of the BRICS 2014 statement in Fortaleza (Brazil). This is a hot-button issue for India, even as it works to isolate Pakistan diplomatically.
Let’s step up fight against terror, place a legal regime: NSA to BRICS counterparts
India’s lead negotiator, Amar Sinha, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said: “In the meeting, our NSA had suggested perhaps we can move on terror cooperation without actually coming to a definition of terrorism because everybody knows. When a terrorist act happens you know exactly what is terrorism. So you don’t have to first start defining it. You take the act as a terrorist act and work backwards. So that is one of the suggestions but I am sure we will push that.”
Despite India making concerted efforts for adoption of CCIT at almost every global forum — the latest being at the United Nations General Assembly where External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj urged the UN to adopt it — there has not been any headway.
This is because countries have different opinions on the key question: What is terrorism?
While many among the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries want “acts committed by national liberation movements to be explicitly excluded from the definition”, some countries from South America want it to cover “state terrorism”. And many developed countries from the West, including the United States, want to “exclude acts committed by military forces of states during peacetime” from the definition of terrorism.
India, which has been pushing for the CCIT since the 1990s — the first draft was prepared by Delhi in 1996 — also feels that excluding the liberation movements and phrases like “right to self-determination” may give Pakistan-backed terrorism in Kashmir a leeway.
So, for the past two decades, countries have sought to define acts that would constitute international terrorism, and set out rights and obligations of states in bringing the culprits to justice. But with the issues of definition and exceptions still a stumbling block, an agreement has not been possible at the global level.
“NSA’s suggestion is being seen as a step towards resolving this vexed issue. Since all BRICS countries have suffered terrorist attacks in the recent past, we hope to make some progress on the issue,” a government source said.