Delhi Declaration

At the recently concluded United Nations Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, the member states unanimously adopted the Delhi Declaration. This Declaration is essentially a set of guidelines and commitments to end terrorism from the civilised societies in the world.

The Declaration makes it obligatory for the member states to ensure zero tolerance toward terrorism. This high-sounding exhortation, as also reiteration of commitment to wipe out terrorism.

It is easier said than done, as it has been seen in the past that often these commitments lack the conviction to fight terrorism. It is left to the victim states to devise their own means and ways to fight terrorism.

Skepticism apart, the fact is that India, despite being the leading voice against terrorism, has been left alone in its fight against terrorism. There have been words of support, and some unequivocal declarations by the world capitals that India has the right to respond to the acts of terrorism taking place on its soil, mainly due to the hostile external forces. There are no prizes to guess which external forces are at work against India.

Over the decades, the definition of terrorism, and the methods of those encouraging and inciting terrorism, have undergone a phenomenal change. The definition of terrorist, hiding his /her face with balaclavas, is not relevant in the current times.

The times when the terrorists used to hide in jungles and come out only to strike their targets and return to their hideouts, are also vanishing. Now the terrorists live amidst vibrant societies. A smart phone and internet have become tools of terror.

Putting it simply, as Indian Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar, explained at the UNSC Counter Terrorism Committee meet – in Mumbai and Delhi – that the developing technologies, internet and encrypted messages- have obscured the faces of the terrorists. This is a new challenge. And this challenge cannot be met with the usual methods of fighting terrorism.

The Delhi Declaration has underlined certain invaluable points. These deserve close attention, because terrorism is a menace that works against the humanity, not just against one section, one religion, or group of nations.

It touched upon some of the fundamentals of the tasks ahead and how to accomplish the same, as it stated in very, very, clear terms that terrorism in all forms and manifestations is one of the most serious threats. Any act of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivations, whenever, wherever and by whomsoever committed.

It placed an extraordinary emphasis on the zero tolerance towards terrorism through full and effective implementation of UN Security Council resolutions. Member states to fulfill their obligations enshrined in relevant international counter terrorism conventions.

It also listed the obligation for the member states to prevent and suppress financing of terrorist acts and to refrain from providing support to entities or persons involved in such acts, including by suppressing recruitment of members of terrorist groups, consistent with international laws, and eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists.

The Declaration did not mince words when it spoke of the terrorists’ opportunity to access safe havens. It enjoined upon all member states to deny safe havens to terrorists, as they need to cooperate fully in the fight against terrorism to identify safe havens, deny terrorists’ access to them and bring to justice, in accordance with domestic and international laws, any person who supports, facilitates, participates or attempts to participate in the financing, planning, preparation or commission of terrorist acts, including by providing safe havens.

I personally think that the “zero tolerance” to terrorism is a phrase unless it is given a meaning through contour and content. Having seen what has happened in Jammu and Kashmir, especially since 1989, some of the questions continue to haunt. By the start of 1988, arms had started arriving in Kashmir, and there were hands willing to pick them up and use.

A senior police officer wrote in his report about this dangerous development and how these could endanger the Valley. His boss dismissed the report, saying that you don’t have to write reports at the behest of IB – the intelligence bureau. This is typical in Kashmir which interpreted developments or narratives as “Markazich Chaal” – the conspiracy waved by Centre.

Second thing was more obvious. In March 1988, then chief  minister Farooq Abdullah  stood  up in the legislative Assembly in Jammu, and posed a question to Syed Ali Shah Geelani, then one of the four members of the Muslim United Front: “Do you condemn terrorism.” Geelani did not answer, though this question was repeated at least four times. To be honest, till that time, terrorism and Kashmir were seen in contrast to each other.

There was so much belief in the ethos of peace and harmony in Kashmir, that all the talk of terrorism making any headway in Kashmir, was dismissed with contempt.

When the zero tolerance towards terrorism is listed as a goal, there is a need to make the people aware of the dangers of terrorism.

This is the lesson that should have been learnt from the developments that took place in 1980s- the neighbouring state of Punjab was in grip of terrorism, and in Afghanistan, “ jihad” was on against the Soviet troops.

That is where Delhi Declaration’s guidelines are important – never ignore the developments in the distant lands nor refuse to listen to whispers of conspiracies. The delay multiplies problems.

The sources of discontentment too should be taken care of. Zero tolerance means that there should be no ground zero. The Declaration is good, but each and every  aspect  covered by it, needs to be researched  and  placed before the people across the country and beyond. The Delhi Declaration is important, but more important is how to implement it.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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