In a major diplomatic achievement, India for the first time addressed the OIC meeting in the UAE 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 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,” 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.
Swaraj during her address read a verse from the Holy Koran which says ‘La Ikrah fiddeen’ -- Let there be no compulsion in religion. “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. “I carry the greetings of my Prime Minister Narendra Modiji and 1.3 billion Indians, including more than 185 million Muslim brothers and sisters. Our Muslims brothers and sisters are a microcosm of the diversity of India itself,” the minister said and asserted that “very few” Muslims in India have fallen prey to the poisonous propaganda of radical and extremist ideologies.
During her nearly 17-minute speech, she did not mention Pakistan.
Her remarks came amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan following the killing of 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama district by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Pakistan, a member of the OIC, had written a letter to the grouping demanding the withdrawal of the invitation to the plenary after New Delhi’s counter-terror operations in Pakistan on February 26.
Swaraj said she is a representative of a land, that has been for ages a fountain of knowledge, a beacon of peace, a source of faiths and traditions, and home to religions from the world – and now, one of the major economies of the world.