By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) India Correspondent
NEW DELHI: The two-day International Conference of Jurists on Terrorism and Rule of Law held in the capital city (November 21-22) strongly indicates that concern of the Indian government about terrorism is certainly not confined to only apprehensions about Pakistan-based elements planning and supporting militant elements here. The conference was inaugurated by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil and the valedictory address was made by Vice-President Hamid Ansari. A brief analysis of the speeches made by Patil and Ansari suggests that the Indian government is concerned about challenges posed by terrorism to peace within the country and the lapses in the system, which have failed to check the threat posed by militant elements. While Patil focused on the former aspect, Ansari emphasized the latter. Interestingly, neither Patil nor Ansari mentioned Pakistan or linked terrorist attacks the country has faced with any particular religious and/regional group. During her inaugural address, Patil stated: â€œOurs is a pluralist society. As a vibrant democracy of more than one billion people, India takes pride in its multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious milieu. A democratic ethos infuses the life of the Indian people and the nation. Through respect for plurality and democracy, India celebrates its unity in diversity. We remain firmly committed to democratic governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights and religious freedom.â€ â€œAs a responsible member of the international community, the conduct of our foreign relations since independence has been to promote peace and development and create a better world, free of terror. We have pledged ourselves to a policy of zero-tolerance towards terrorism, from whatever source it originates, wherever it strikes and whosoever it chooses as target,â€ Patil emphasized.
Patil asserted that â€œno idea, no cause whatsoever, can justify terrorism.â€ â€œTerrorists belong to no religion for they are not apostles of peace but messengers of death and destruction. We have to be overwhelmingly careful that terrorists do not succeed in their evil designs of sowing seeds of misunderstandings and causing fractures between cultures in the international community,â€ she said. â€œInstead, we must steadfastly work towards building bridges of understanding between the different cultures of our planet based on respect for rule of law, the protection of democratic values and strengthening of common institutions,â€ she pointed out.
Describing terrorism as a â€œperverse global phenomenon,â€ Patil said that â€œthe struggle against it must be carried to the world stage.â€ â€œTerrorism easily transcends borders and thus becomes a transnational crime. Being a crime against humanity, it ought to be recognized as a common enemy of all nations. A terror threat against one, is a threat against all,â€ she stated. â€œIt is incumbent on the international community to ensure that there is an effective legal framework for the prevention and elimination of terrorism and to bring to justice the sponsors, abettors and perpetrators of terrorism,â€ Patil pointed out. Acknowledging that â€œdiffering theories and ongoing debates have impeded an internationally acceptable definition of terrorism,â€ Patil said: â€œWe need fresh ideas and creative thinking to provide a strong edifice to international law and to maximize complementarities amongst nations.â€ She highlighted the need to â€œevolve a system of sharing best practices amongst criminal justice practitioners across regions and across legal systems, besides providing for country based capacity building assistance for rounded implementation of international legal instruments against terrorism.â€ â€œWe must be pro-active, committed and persevering in our actions to combat the global threat of terrorism. We owe this to the people we serve and to our future generations,â€ she said.
During his address, Ansari voiced his concern on â€œlapsesâ€ in the Indian system leading to its â€œfailure to deliver.â€ Elaborating on the recent trends in study of the Rule of Law, Ansari pointed out: â€œPolitical scientists have argued that an organic development and entrenchment of Rule of Law in a developing country context requires three essential conditions: (i) certainty, meaning equality before law and absence of arbitrary abuse of authority; (ii) perpetuity, the ability to bind future regimes and officials of the state to todayâ€™s rules and institutions and (iii) certitude that resort to violence is legitimate and controlled.â€ Turning to Indiaâ€™s approach, he said: â€œWe remain committed to democratic governance, transparency, inclusive development and the implementation of Rule of Law. Our practice, however, has been marred by lapses resulting in a failure to deliver it in sufficient measure. The supremacy of Rule of Law has been challenged by corruption and the malicious influence of money power; both are made possible by departure from norms of good governance.â€
What is noteworthy and also commendable that both Patil and Ansari, respectively, gave emphasis to the role that Indian government has to play in combating the challenge posed by terrorism and lapses which have emerged as â€œa significant threat to national security.â€ It is rarely that the countryâ€™s leaders have acknowledged their role and responsibility in failure to effectively check the menace posed by terrorism. Against this backdrop, Patil and Ansariâ€™s comments suggest that Indian government has acknowledged that threat posed by terrorism cannot be checked by only holding external elements responsible for the same.
Paradoxically, the two-day conference was also witness to a slight diplomatic tension, when remarks made by a speaker made an envoy walk out of the hall. Saudi Arabian ambassador to India Faisal-al-Trad walked out when former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani in his speech made comments against Saudi Arabiaâ€™s Wahabism and Osama bin Laden as responsible for terrorism. Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, however, indulged in â€œdamage-controlâ€ exercise by laying stress in his address that comments made by Jethamalini were his own, with which he totally disagrees, and not of the government. Subsequently, Trad returned to the conference hall.
â€œTerrorism cannot be attributed to any particular religion, as no religion teaches terrorism,â€ Moily said. Among other speakers, Justice Awn S. Al-Khasawneh, judge of the International Court of Justice asked Jethmalani not to make sweeping statements. He said: â€œThe message from this conference must not be fear-mongering, but tackling terrorism within the framework of law. Combat it with methods such as combination of cooperation among countries by preaching the message of law and peace rather than fear mongering.â€