In her speech on Monday at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), foreign minister Sushma Swaraj appealed the global community for early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).
“The CCIT was proposed by India in 1996. In 2016, despite the passage of two decades, we are yet to come to a conclusion. As a result, we are unable to develop a norm under which terrorists shall be prosecuted or extradited. Therefore it is my appeal that this General Assembly acts with fresh resolve and urgency to adopt this critical Convention," Swaraj said, as NDTV reported, while addressing the 71st session of the UNGA in New York.
New Delhi has pushed for an intergovernmental convention to enhance prosecution and extradition of terrorists since 1996. But, a series of terror attacks since the beginning of the year in India as well as in Bangladesh seem to have revived the Indian diplomatic establishment’s interest in voting and early adoption of the anti-terror convention.
Last week, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup confirmed that the move is also a part of India’s strategy to isolate Pakistan internationally. As DNA reported, he said the CCIT would give “legal teeth to prosecute terrorist acts." India’s ambassador at the United Nations, Syed Akbaruddin, likewise, said that New Delhi was considering all options, including forcing “voting" on the CCIT.
Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, had referred to the proposed convention at the G-20 Summit in Antalyla, Turkey, urging the world leaders to unite against terrorism without making any distinctions between individuals and nations.
It is pertinent to ask: what does India stand to gain from the CCIT and what makes the proposed convention different from other existing (at least 14 till date) conventions?
For the uninitiated, the CCIT provides a legal framework which makes it binding on all signatories to deny funds and safe havens to terrorist groups. The original draft that was tabled in 1996 and discussed until April 2013, as The Hindu reports, included following major objectives:
•To have a universal definition of terrorism that all 193-members of the UNGA will adopt into their own criminal law
•To ban all terror groups and shut down terror camps
•To prosecute all terrorists under special laws
•To make cross-border terrorism an extraditable offence worldwide.
The above objectives clearly indicate how India, which has been a victim of cross-border terrorism, took cognizance of the threat it poses to international peace and security long before the major world powers. New Delhi has condemned terrorism in its all forms and stressed that it requires a holistic approach and collective action to tackle it.
Despite India’s efforts to push a global intergovernmental convention to tackle terrorism, the conclusion and ratification of the CCIT remains deadlocked, mainly due to opposition from three main blocs – the US, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), and the Latin American countries.
All three have objections over the “definition of terrorism" (the most divisive of the issues) and seek exclusions to safeguard their strategic interests. For example, the OIC wants exclusion of national liberation movements, especially in the context of Israel-Palestinian conflict. The US wanted the draft to exclude acts committed by military forces of states during peacetime.
The CCIT is currently being discussed at the Sixth Ad Hoc Committee of the United Nations. The committee is the primary forum for the consideration of legal questions in the UNGA.
India, on its part, has lobbied overtime, especially with the OIC countries. In fact, Swaraj reportedly conducted meetings with the ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the 22-member Arab League on the CCIT agenda and has received positive response, as The Hindu notes.
Although consensus eludes towards adoption of the terrorism convention, but discussions have yielded three separate protocols that aim to tackle terrorism: International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, adopted on 15 December 1997; International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted on 9 December 1999; and International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, adopted on 13 April 2005.