External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Abu Dhabi on Friday to a very warm and gracious welcome. She later addressed the plenary session of the 57 member Organisation of Islamic Co-operation despite protests from Pakistan, who too is a full-fledged member of the OIC. Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi boycotted the event where Swaraj spoke, even though there was no official word on whether Qureshi would attend the two-day event. An empty chair at the Pakistan table was eloquent testament to his absence.
Swaraj's presence, clearly initiated by UAE and Saudi and backed by other member countries, is seen as a major diplomatic coup and an opportunity to put forward India's case to members who represent a quarter of the global population and also represent India's 185 million Muslims in this conclave. Attending the meeting in the shadow of 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, Swaraj, who is the first Indian minister to address the meeting of the 57 Islamic countries, said "very few" Muslims in India have fallen prey to the poisonous propaganda of radical and extremist ideologies.
Wearing a fawn coloured saree, Swaraj spoke sitting down but with clarity and strength of conviction in her voice invoking the fact that there is one God but learned men mention him in different ways. Her opening caught the attention of the conclave and set the tone of her speech.
"I stand here as 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."
"I carry the greetings of 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."
She frontally said that in the 99 names given to Allah not one indicates violence. Having reiterated Islam as a religion of peace, Swaraj segued seamlessly into her main subject which is terrorism and how it is alien to everything that the Muslim world stands for.
She warned that the specter of terrorism is increasing and has to be dismantled. She called upon the OIC to warn against those who harbour or give refuge to terrorists and said, “Terrorism is destroying lives,destabilising regions and putting the world at great peril. Terror reach is growing and the toll it is taking is increasing. States which provide support to terrorists must stop."
Without specifically naming Pakistan, Swaraj stressed the point of allowing terrorist camps by saying, "If we want to save humanity, we must tell the states who provide shelter and funding to terrorists, to dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist camps and stop providing shelter and funding to the terror organisations based in that country."
Striking a positive note, Swaraj underscored personal ties with many members and added, "Nations represented at OIC have shown the diversity. We have worked together in spite of many challenges. We have excellent political ties with many of you."
Earlier, the external affairs minister had meetings with OIC secretary general Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen and Minister of Foreign Affairs UAE and Chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan who addressed the audience prior to inviting her on stage. Swaraj also reiterated the need for the world and its safety to ensure that funding of terror groups is ended. Swaraj is expected to engage in bi-lateral talks with other foreign ministers through the day.
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Updated Date: Mar 01, 2019 14:42:20 IST