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Address by External Affairs Minister at the UNSC Open Debate on Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts

January 12, 2021

Thank you for giving me the floor. At the outset, I would like to thank Your Excellency Foreign Minister of Tunisia Mr. Othman Jerandi, for inviting me to address today’s UNSC meeting. Let me congratulate the Tunisian delegation for organizing this important meeting on the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1373 - a landmark resolution in the global fight against terrorism. We recognize Tunisia’s contribution as the Chair of the Counter Terrorism Committee, and commend its steering the UNSC discourse on this critical issue.

2. I would also like to thank Mr. Vladimir Voronkov, USG UNOCT, Ms. Michele Coninsx, Executive Director CTED and Ms. Fatima Akilu, Executive Director, Neem Foundation for their briefings.

3. Resolution 1373, adopted in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, reminds us that terrorism continues to be the gravest threat to mankind. It not only grievously impacts human life but attacks the very foundation of humanity. By adopting this Resolution, the Council conveyed its unequivocal determination to address the menace of terrorism.

4. India has always been at the forefront of global counter terrorism efforts. In 1996, long before the adoption of Resolution 1373, India took the initiative to pilot the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism with the objective of providing a comprehensive legal framework to combating terrorism. We have signed and ratified all the major conventions and protocols on terrorism adopted by the UN, and are part of all major global initiatives in that regard.

5. Resolution 1373 and the Counter Terrorism Committee are important pillars of the global architecture against terrorism. Other UN initiatives, including the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate, play a notable part in augmenting capabilities of member States and extending technical and capacity building assistance. The UN sanctions regime has also been an effective tool in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. President,

6. In recent years, terrorist groups and lone wolf attackers have significantly enhanced their capabilities by gaining access to new and emerging technologies, including drones, virtual currencies and encrypted communications. Social media networks have contributed to the radicalization and recruitment of youth. The COVID-19 pandemic has only aggravated the situation further. The relative isolation and extended disruption due to the lockdowns and the associated distress and economic uncertainty has made the world more susceptible to radicalizing narratives and extremist propaganda.

7. Preventing terrorists from accessing financial resources is crucial to successfully countering the threat of terrorism. Over the years, terrorist groups have developed a diversified funding portfolio through a range of criminal activities, including extortion, kidnapping, money laundering, drug smuggling, and trafficking of natural resources, humans, and antiquities. Terrorist organizations have also begun to exploit the anonymity afforded by block chain technology for fundraising and finances.

8. Some States lack the legal and operational frameworks and technical expertise needed to detect, investigate, and prosecute terrorist financing cases. However, there are also other States that are clearly guilty of aiding and supporting terrorism, and wilfully provide financial assistance and safe havens. While we must enhance capacities of the former, the international community must collectively call out the latter and hold them accountable.

9. For the UN system to credibly address the menace of terrorism and ensure effective action, I would like to propose eight points that could in a way be an Action Plan:

i) First, we must all summon the political will to unhesitatingly combat terrorism. There must be no ifs and buts in this fight. Nor should we allow terrorism to be justified or terrorists glorified. All member States must fulfill their obligations enshrined in international counter terrorism instruments and conventions.

ii) Two, we must not countenance double standards in this battle. Terrorists are terrorists; there is no good or bad distinction. Those who propagate this only have an agenda. And those who cover up for them are just as culpable.

iii) Accordingly, we must reform the working methods of the Committees dealing with Sanctions and Counter Terrorism. Transparency, accountability and effectiveness are the need of the day. The practice of placing blocks and holds on listing requests without any rhyme or reason must end. This only erodes our collective credibility.

iv) Four, we must firmly discourage exclusivist thinking that divides the world and harms our social fabric. Such approaches facilitate radicalization and recruitment by breeding fear, mistrust, and hatred among different communities. The Council should be on guard against new terminologies and false priorities that can dilute our focus.

v) Five, enlisting and delisting individuals and entities under the UN sanctions regimes must be done objectively, not for political or religious considerations. Proposals in this regard merit due examination before circulation.

vi) Six, linkages between terrorism and transnational organized crime must be fully recognized and addressed vigorously. We, in India, have seen the crime syndicate responsible for the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts not just given State protection but enjoying 5-star hospitality.

vii) Seven, combating terrorist financing will only be as effective as the weakest jurisdiction. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) should continue to identify and remedy weaknesses in anti-money laundering and counter-terror can make a big difference.

viii) And eight, adequate funding to UN Counter Terrorism bodies from UN regular budget requires immediate attention. The forthcoming 7th review of the UN’s Global Counter Terrorism Strategy offers an important occasion to strengthen measures to prevent and combat terrorism and build capacities of member states.

10. Mr. President, I sincerely hope that these eight suggestions merit serious consideration by the Council. While India has been itself battling terrorism for many decades with great resolve, these proposals have been framed with the interests of the entire international community in mind. It is time that all nations walk the talk against terrorism and commit themselves to the goal of zero tolerance. I thank you Mr. President.

New Delhi
January 12, 2021
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