Recent history has witnessed the growth of two conflicting trends. Democracy has spread and is widely accepted. There has also been a simultaneous growth of terrorist violence in support of narrow political aims. This is the very negation of the principle of democracy. Democracy confers free choice on the individual.
Terrorism seeks to deprive him of his choice. Terrorism threatens human rights of individuals as well as security of States. Those who are committed to democracy cannot adopt an equivocal position on terrorism.
Democracy is based on freedom of association, speech and faith. It entails accepting and reconciling political differences peacefully. Democracy rests on recognition of pluralism. People may profess different religions or ideologies. They may belong to different classes. They may even feel oppressed by the rigidities
of the prevailing economic and social order. But democracy does provide the opportunity to fight for change in a peaceful manner. Terrorists respect no rights or justice for those who differ from them. Terrorism is intolerant of dissent and responds to it with ruthless violence.
In a democracy it is possible to change government and policies through the ballot rather than the bullet. It is not necessarily easy or without frustration. But surely, it cannot be accepted that a bully can claim that his views are right because he has the strength and propensity to violence, to knock his opponent down.
The right to self-determination is sacrosanct. It was denied to us by our colonial masters. Successful completion of decolonization process has brought freedom to millions of people in the developing countries. However, this right which brought freedom to developing countries cannot be an argument for their break-up Self-determination in a democracy is exercised through participation in political process.
In cannot be the justification for endless demands for secession on the basis of ethnic or religious particularity. To bomb and maim innocent citizens and then claim the right to self-determination as a justification is a travesty.
We have witnessed enormous suffering brought about by ethnic and sectarian conflicts in many parts of the world. Millions have lost their lives.
Many more have been rendered homeless. Such conflicts have spilled beyond national boundaries and become a source of regional and international instability, and have been witnessed in many parts of the world with particular virulence recently in Africa and Europe and have brought about the complete destruction of civil society.
They have destroyed the basic philosophy within which the concept of human rights is rooted. The equation between terrorism and self-determination is a dangerous lie.
Terrorism is often cloaked in self-serving ideologies, which disguise its real nature. It is often used as a tool of State policy. The objective of States sponsoring terrorism across international borders is not to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedoms.
It is certainly not to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors. It is also not to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security. The sole objective of States sponsoring terrorism abroad is to change the established order by force and violence. In this ruthless quest, they are as willing to sacrifice lives of whose rights they seek to promote, as those of their foes.
The quest for territorial expansion in the name of self-determination through terrorism inevitably carries with it the potential of conflict between States. It creates a threat to international peace and security.
Organized terrorism supported by the State uses large masses of refugees as assets in a ruthless war to extend State frontiers and achieve strategic depth. We have seen its consequences in our region, such as in Afghanistan. It has brought immense suffering to the people. It has resulted in gross violation of human rights and imposition of discriminatory laws on women. It has resulted in regression into a medieval society.
International terrorism can only be countered by enhanced cooperation at international level. This requires concerted action. NGOs have a special role to play in enhancing awareness of the threat posed by terrorists to human rights. There is need for greater action at regional as well as international level.
We support a comprehensive approach. The focus should be on practical measures to combat terrorism, rather than getting lost in perennial debate on definition of terrorism. There is no doubt about nature or consequences of terrorism; the need is to find political will to root out this menace.
India has played a leading role in building international consensus against terrorism. NAM has unequivocally affirmed that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons, for whatever purposes, are unjustifiable.
The recent NAM Summit in Durban has also reaffirmed that all Member States have an obligation to refrain from organizing, assisting or participating in terrorist acts in the territories of other States. They unequivocally condemned any political, diplomatic, moral or material support to terrorism.
We have to carry forward the consensus evolved by NAM and translate it into practical actions at international level. This would require concerted action. Piecemeal approach will not do. We have, therefore, proposed a comprehensive international convention against terrorism.
NAM has supported India’s proposal. Recently, 53rd UNGA session agreed that negotiations on a comprehensive international convention should be taken up on priority basis. We need to complete this task urgently. A comprehensive international convention against terrorism would help avoid unilateral or selective action.
If we want to see a world free of strife based on terrorist violence, which threatens to undermine democratic pluralism within States as well as friendly relations amongst them, we must join hands to fight this menace.