Kuala Lumpur, Feb. 23: Gathering war clouds over Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict coloured perceptions of terrorism, allowing Pakistan to escape a tougher verdict from the Non-Aligned Movement for its role in sponsoring the menace.
However, an Islamabad-initiated move to bring “conflict resolution” within Nam’s ambit got derailed in the face of tough resistance from India.
Adoption of “conflict resolution” in the Nam draft would have provided Pakistan with an opportunity not only to raise the Kashmir issue at the forum of the developing countries, but also legitimately seek its intervention in the dispute.
After days of tough negotiation, Nam seems to have come closer to a consensus on terrorism. Delhi stoutly opposed Pakistan’s attempt to include “root cause” and “conflict resolution” in the Nam draft, saying countries would use them to justify their terrorist action.
An agreement appeared to have been reached that they would be kept out of the final document.
The main hitch was with the words “state-sponsored terrorism” — a term popularised by the Americans mainly in the context of West Asia. Respecting the sentiments of the Arab and Islamic nations, India agreed to relent on it.
The heads of government of Nam nations will have to approve the draft before it becomes part of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration at the end of the summit on Tuesday. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and other leaders of the movement will address the gathering at tomorrow’s inaugural session.
“Developments in Iraq provided additional oxygen to countries sponsoring terrorism. The debate on terrorism was heavily coloured because of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The issue was seen through the prism of (the) Middle East,” foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said this evening.
“The situation in (the) Middle East and the one prevailing in our region are different and the same arguments are not relevant,” he added. But given the popular mood, India admitted that it would be difficult to push the issue any further.
Though separate meetings on Iraq, Palestine and terrorism were on simultaneously, soon they merged into one and the progress of one hampered movement on the others as various regional biases came into play.
Last night, Nam leaders managed to come to an agreement on the text on Iraq, in which the emphasis was on finding a “peaceful resolution” to the crisis through the UN. The US was not referred to by name.
India managed to convince the others that stress should be laid on Baghdad’s “total compliance” with the UN Security Council resolutions to defuse the situation there.
It became apparent this morning that the Arab world and the Islamic nations will extract their pound of flesh for this compromise. Nam host and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad articulated the rising sentiments of this section.
“The attack against Iraq will simply mean more Muslims who see this as being anti-Muslim rather than anti-terror. The world is in a state of terror. We are quite paranoid. We are afraid of flying, of going to certain countries, fearful of certain people. We are afraid of Muslims, of Arabs, of bearded people,” Mahathir said at a business meeting.
He argued that the “world has changed for the worse” after September 11. Countries like Israel now have an excuse to launch attacks on the Palestinians: fighting terrorism.
Aware that various Islamic countries were now hiding behind Iraq and the West Asia crisis to push their own agenda, a senior Indian official said: “We had to agree to certain adjustments in the text, otherwise the position of the Arab world would have hardened further.”
Arithmetically, too, it was difficult for India to get a tougher wording out of Nam on terrorism. The 50-odd members of the Organisation of Islamic Countries make up half the strength of Nam.
During bilateral discussions, most of these countries accept India’s view on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere in the country.
But, with the possibility of US-led war on Iraq looming large and there being no signs of a peaceful and honourable resolution to the Palestinian issue, they, as an Islamic bloc, decided to oppose any stronger language on terrorism.
Netaji culture centre
The Prime Minister today announced the setting up of an Indian cultural centre in Malaysia, which will be named after Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The Malaysian government will provide the land.
Vajpayee made the announcement before a huge gathering of the Indian community, after a meeting with his Malaysian counterpart.
Earlier, the Prime Minister almost turned down a request for setting up a Hindi school in Malaysia. “Efforts can be made for the promotion of Hindi language. But I don’t know whether that merits a school here,” he told the gathering.