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India urges world to adopt pact on terrorism

NEW DELHI,IFTIKHAR GILANI: Coinciding with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s address at the UN General Assembly on Monday, India is building up a momentum once again to push for consensus amongst member countries to adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), a draft of which, it had proposed way back in 1996, at the height of Kashmir militancy.

Confirming such a move also as part of India’s strategy to isolate Pakistan internationally, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the CCIT would give “legal teeth to prosecute terrorist acts”. He described terrorism the single-biggest threat to international peace and security. India’s ambassador at the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, even went further. He was quoted as saying that India was considering all options, including forcing “voting” on the CCIT. The voting will force countries to spell out their stands and exhibit seriousness and sincerity in combating terrorism.

A victim of terrorism for decades now, India had long ago recognised the need for such a convention.

Former chief of UN Peace Keeping Forces Lt Gen (retd) Satish Nambiar said long before the more powerful countries of the developed world had begun to take cognisance of the threat, India had proposed this draft with the aim to take a holistic approach and collective action to bring the perpetrators of terrorism to justice. The conclusion and ratification of such a convention by member states would bind them to action on the contents.

Over many years, since the draft was proposed, there has been opposition from the three main blocs, the US, the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the Latin American countries. The most contentious part has been the definition of terrorism that all 193-members of the UNGA will have to adopt into their own criminal law. Other provisions will bind countries to ban all terror groups and shut down terror camps regardless of their stated objectives, to prosecute all terrorists under special laws, and to make cross-border terrorism an ‘extraditable’ offence worldwide. In 2013, however, modifications into the draft had admitted the US concerns, which pertained to state sponsored terrorist acts.

The US apprehended that it would fix its military forces involved in various human rights abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq. The new draft now says “the activities of armed forces during an armed conflict” will not be governed by the present convention. Even, though India has tried to reach out to the OIC countries bilaterally to adopt the convention, but there is concern of its impact on Israel-Palestine conflict.

At the G20 Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had particularly referred to the proposed convention, asking the world to back its ratification and unite against terrorism. Swaraj’s address is likely to push towards stronger consensus towards the CCIT. Swarup also said “you can expect a continued focus from India on the theme of terrorism which is today undoubtedly the single biggest challenge to international peace and security.”

She is also expected to give a stinging response to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech at the UN General Assembly, in which he focused elaborately on Kashmir.

The CCIT draft is being currently discussed at the Sixth Ad Hoc Committee of the United Nations, set up by the General Assembly to supplement existing conventions against terrorism. Though, ia consensus still eludes on the provisions of the CCIT, the Committee over past few years has adopted three other treaties: International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, adopted on December 15, 1997; International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted on December 9, 1999; and International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, adopted on April 13, 2005.