Manama/New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday made a strong pitch to delink terrorism from religion as India and the Arab League member states condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
“As the spectre of terrorism and religious hatred raises its ugly head across the world, particularly in those cherished cities of history, it is time once again to reach back in time and redeem the essence of our civilisational spirit,” Sushma Swaraj said as she addressed the first ever ministerial-level meeting of the India-Arab Partnership Conference here that was attended by the foreign ministers of the 22 Arab League countries.
The Arab League comprises Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, the State of Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
“We must pledge to halt the physical violence that has spread like a plague,” Sushma Swaraj said.
She said this must be recognised that it cannot be done “without equally addressing the violence in our minds, a poison that has been spread by terror groups, harnessing the power of modern technology and social media platforms to infect our youth - those ideologies and beliefs that regard one’s own brother as a stranger, one’s own mother as accursed”.
“Equally, we must delink religion from terror,” Sushma Swaraj said.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
Stating that one cannot afford to ignore the dangers of radicalisation and indoctrination, she said that India’s model of unity in diversity offers an example for the world. 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,” she said.
Stating that terrorism did not respect national borders, the Indian minister said: “But not only do we need to condemn all acts of terrorism but we need to join hands regionally and globally to remove the scourge of terrorism completely.”
On India-Arab ties, she said these now covered a whole host of sectors.
“We have substantial common interests in the fields of trade and investment, energy and security, culture and Diaspora. Today the Arab world is collectively India’s largest trading partner with bilateral trade crossing $180 billion,” she said.
“We source 60 percent of our oil and gas requirements from West Asia, making this region a pillar of our energy security. The Maghreb region is a major source of phosphates and other fertilisers which contributes significantly towards our food security,” Sushma Swaraj stated, adding that new and emerging areas of cooperation include agricultural research, dry land farming, irrigation and environmental protection.
Among other areas for partnership she mentioned were information and communication technologies, automobiles and small and medium enterprises, biotechnology and space.
Following the meeting, India and the Arab nations adopted the Manama Declaration condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including cross-border terrorism.
“The two sides condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and rejecting associating terrorism with any religion, culture or ethnic group, 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,” the declaration reads.
The Arab side also aspired “to an effective Indian role, in cooperation with Arab states, to enhance peace and security at the regional and international level”.
Both the sides also called for urgent reforms of the UN Security Council through expansion in both permanent and non-permanent membership to reflect contemporary reality.
India and the Arab regional grouping also hoped to strengthen future cooperation in economic, trade and investment.
The two sides also expressed hope to reach a memorandum of understanding in the field of energy, especially in the field of renewable energy.
After Sunday's meeting, Sushma Swaraj called on Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa in Manama.
On Saturday, after arriving in Manama, she called on Bahrain's King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa.
She also held bilateral discussions with her Bahraini counterpart Shaikh Khalid Al Khalifa following which the two sides signed an agreement to exchange their citizens lodged in the prisons of each other's country.