Pakistan leaves its chair empty
External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj on Friday delivered a historic speech at the foreign ministers' meet of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) states where she raised the issue of terrorism, amidst Indo-Pak tensions following the gruesome terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on February 14. Pakistan left their representative's chair empty at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meet as a protest during Swaraj's speech.
Early in the day, Swaraj reached UAE's Abu Dhabi to attend the inaugural plenary of the two-day conclave. It is for the first time that India has been invited to a meeting of the OIC, an influential grouping of 57 Islamic countries, as the guest of honour. Minutes before her address Sushma was greeted by the present Chair of OIC Council of Foreign Ministers - UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who invited her for the meet.
Pakistan had opposed the invitation to India, which is not a member of the OIC, for the conference taking place in Abu Dhabi. The inaugural address by Swaraj is considered a big diplomatic win for India. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced that he would not attend the meeting after OIC rejected his appeal to cancel the invitation to Swaraj.
Speaking at the OIC meeting, Swaraj said, "The fight against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion. It cannot be." "Just as Islam literally means peace, none of the 99 names of Allah mean violence. Similarly, every religion in the world stands for peace, compassion, and brotherhood, " said Swaraj.
On the ideology adopted by India, Swaraj said, "India has always embraced and found it easy to embrace pluralism since it is embedded in the oldest Sanskrit religious text 'The Rig Veda'."
Subsequently, Swaraj mentioned a quote in Hindi which means "God is One but learned men describe Him in many ways".
"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," Swaraj said.
On the fight against terrorism, Swaraj said, "This is not a clash of civilisations or cultures, but a contest of ideas and ideals. As PM Narendra Modi has often said, it is a struggle between the values of humanism and the forces of inhumanity."
"Terrorism and extremism bear different names and labels. It uses diverse causes. But in each case, it is driven by distortion of religion, and a misguided belief in its power to succeed."