India challenges UN to act unitedly on terror, adopt convention

IRAQ-UNREST India asks: "Is it not time that we show a common resolve to rise above our semantic definitional differences?" | AFP

India has challenged the world body to rise above the differences of its members over fighting terrorism and adopt an international convention to unitedly combat the spreading menace.

"Every day we are faced with distressing reminders to governments, societies and individuals of the threat held out by terrorists," India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said on Thursday after a briefing by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on his priorities for the year.

"Are we at the United Nations General Assembly content to remain silent bystanders," he asked.

"Is it not time that we show a common resolve to rise above our semantic definitional differences and work on the long overdue Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism?"

Negotiations for the treaty that would provide for unified global action have been deadlocked for over 20 years, despite a renewed commitment to it by world leaders in 2005. Differences in defining what are terrorist organisations and who are terrorists are factors holding up the proposed treaty. Some countries want exemption made for groups they consider to be "national liberation movements" instead of terrorist organisations, and terrorists they consider to be "freedom fighters".

"We think it is time to have a closer look at what we can do more and do better together to build global norms to counter the common threat posed by terrorism and violent extremism," Akbaruddin said. "Or are we condemned to allow each society or each Government to battle on its own? If so can we remain relevant to those who are affected by this scourge?"

In the briefing on his priorities, Ban did not touch on the languishing efforts for the anti-terrorism convention. "Well-calibrated, security-based counter-terrorism measures remain essential," he said. "But human rights must be at the forefront of our response."

Unveiling a plan Friday to combat violent extremism, Ban sounded a note of caution.

"Sweeping definitions of terrorism or violent extremism are often used to criminalise the legitimate actions of opposition groups, civil society organisations and human rights defenders." This seemed to go to the heart of the disputes over defining terrorism in the proposed convention.

Ban, however, added, "The international community has every right to defend against this threat using lawful means, but we must pay particular attention to addressing the causes of violent extremism if this problem is to be resolved in the long run."

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