NAM summit: India makes strong anti-terror pitch, Pakistan raises Kashmir issue

The Non-Aligned Movement wrapped up a summit on Sunday in Venezuela with an expression of support for its embattled host, President Nicolas Maduro, and scathing attacks on US "interventionism" around the world.

The 120-member group issued a statement at the end of the two-day meeting calling for peace, urging world powers not to meddle in other countries' affairs and voicing concern over violence in Syria, Iraq and the Palestinian Territories.

The 190-page document also urges support for "the struggle against terrorism, for solidarity with refugees in northern Africa, and the Venezuelan people's right to peace," Maduro told a press conference.

Founded 55 years ago to give a greater voice to countries squeezed in the power struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Non-Aligned Movement has struggled to stay relevant since the end of the Cold War.

File photo of Hamid Ansari. AFP

File photo of Hamid Ansari. AFP

Just a handful of heads of state or government attended the summit on the Caribbean island of Margarita, though organisers did not say exactly how many.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was one of the leaders to skip the summit, although Vice-President Hamid Ansari downplayed the miss. Ansari said there is no shift in India's foreign policy and asserted that it is participation that matters as it is "not a conference of prime ministers".

Ansari was the leading Indian delegation for the Summit in the absence of Modi, who was only the second Indian Premier to not go for the conference after Charan Singh in 1979.

Miss or not, India made a strong anti-terror pitch at the Summit, asserting that "concrete action" was needed in the fight against terrorism and asked the 120-nation group to set up a mechanism to ensure effective cooperation in combating the menace.

Ansari said terrorism is one of the "most egregious sources of human right violations today" and its use as an instrument of state policy is to be unequivocally condemned.

The time has come "for our movement to recognise the need for concrete action in the fight against terrorism", Ansari said while addressing the plenary meeting of the bloc.

"We need to establish a mechanism within our movement that will ensure effective cooperation in combating terrorism, that is the main threat to security, sovereignty and development," he said.

Ansari's remarks came against the backdrop of India raising its concerns at various international fora over Pakistan's support to cross-border terrorism. PM Modi had made clear references to Pakistan's support to terrorism without naming it at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, at a Brics meeting in Hangzhou and at the Asean and East Asia summits in Lao PDR.

Describing terrorism as the "biggest threat" to international peace and to the sovereignty of states, Ansari asserted that no cause justifies the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians as a means to achieve a political goal or change of policies.

He stated that terrorism has become a major impediment to development.

Earlier, during NAM's Foreign Ministers' meeting, Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar had also called on NAM to set up a "working group on terrorism" to safeguard world peace, stability and prosperity.

"Governments which think they can pay lip service to sanity at NAM summit, and continue to arm, shelter and exploit terrorists in a war by other means, when they return home will learn that you cannot sip on poison and hope to live," Akbar had said in an apparent reference to Pakistan.

Ansari, in his address, also strongly flagged the issue of UN reforms.

"Today we need to ask whether an organisation designed in 1945 with just 51 member states, is really appropriate to serve the needs of an international community that now comprises 193 independent sovereign states facing 21st-century challenges to their citizens' well-being and security," he said.

World leaders at their Summit at the UN in 2005 had called for urgent reform of the Security Council as part of the effort to make the United Nations fit for the 21st century. The Inter-governmental Negotiations process currently underway in the UN General Assembly seeks to fulfil that mandate.

"We must use the forthcoming 71st UNGA to ensure that our discussions in the IGN move forward," Ansari said.

Noting that the global landscape has changed since 1961, when NAM was formed, Ansari stressed that the values and principles on which the foundations of the movement, namely "respect for sovereignty", "peaceful settlement of disputes" and "international cooperation" — are as relevant today as they were at the time of the first summit.

"Our theme for the next three years — Peace, Sovereignty and Solidarity for Development — is in congruence with our founding principles," he said.

Sustainable Development Goals in the Agenda 2030 which, if implemented successfully, will transform the lives of all citizens, the Vice President said.

He said it would be a reaffirmation of the commitment as a movement to ensure the dignity and development of all humankind.

Noting that NAM has stood steadfastly in the forefront by highlighting global economic issues that affect the developing world, he said the member states must ensure wholehearted and holistic implementation of the SDGs and remain attentive to any effort to modify or distort Agenda 2030 by laying overemphasis on particular SDGs over others, or by trying to create a standard of measurement that could be intrusive and has no relationship to national contexts.

Concluding his address, Ansari said as the largest peace movement in the world, NAM must be in the vanguard of the principal international debates on political, strategic and even economic and social issues.

Meanwhile, continuing its efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue, Pakistan raised the matter at the summit, saying the 120-nation group should be "outraged" by the situation there.

Sartaj Aziz, in his address here as the Pakistan delegation head, said peace in South Asia cannot be achieved without the settlement of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council.

"It is tragic that 60 years after being promised, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are still waiting to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and Kashmir along with Palestine has become one of the longstanding items on the UN agenda," Aziz said.

"We should also be outraged by the horrific images of innocent Kashmiris being killed, maimed and blinded by the use of boot force in Kashmir in the last two months," he said.

Aziz also stated that Pakistan strongly endorses the agreement of heads of state and government in Venezuela to undertake measures to oppose "attempts to equate legitimate struggle for self-determination and national liberation with terrorism".

His comments came on a day when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a terror attack on an army base in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir by suspected Pakistan-based militants.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Sep 19, 2016 12:07 PM

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