The crowning glory of Sushmaji’s stint at Ministry of External Affairs was when she represented India at a meeting of foreign ministers of the member-nations of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Abu Dhabi on March 1 this year.
For the first time in the 50-year-old history of OIC, India’s external affairs minister was invited to participate as a guest of honour.
Since she had gone there in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack and the subsequent military skirmish between India and Pakistan, her participation evoked a lot of interest both in our own country and in the OIC fraternity.
Her speech in Abu Dhabi is one of the finest in her political career. Without mentioning our neighbour, she said, “If we want to save the humanity then we must tell the states that provide shelter and funding to the terrorists, to dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist camps and stop providing funding and shelter to the terror organisations, based in that country.”
Sushma Swaraj Believed that Faiths Must Speak to Faiths
But there was also something else in her speech that has received very little attention in the Indian political and media discourse on terrorism. Let’s hear her own words about the ‘war’ on terror:
“I would like to say that this menace cannot be fought only through military, intelligence or diplomatic means. It is also a battle that must be won through the strengths of our values, and the real message of religions. This is a task that states, societies, sages, scholars, spiritual leaders, and families must pursue, through personal contacts and on social media.”
Swaraj reinforced her message by stating, “And, for this, faiths must speak to faiths; cultures must engage cultures; communities must build bridges, not erect walls.” Furthermore, she also described Islam as a “great religion”, which “literally means peace”; “none of the 99 names of Allah mean violence”. Such heart-warming and reassuring words, especially coming from a BJP politician.
Has PM Modi Followed Any of Her Ideas, Particularly in Kashmir?
To recall Sushmaji’s words today is to be assailed by a troubling question: Has Prime Minister Modi practised what his own external affairs minister so eloquently preached on a global Islamic platform? If the menace of terrorism “cannot be fought, only through military, intelligence or diplomatic means’, which of the other means commended by Sushmaji has the Modi government pursued in the past over five years?
Has the prime minister taken even a nano step to ensure that “faiths (especially Hinduism and Islam) speak to faiths”, with the aim of removing misunderstandings and promoting goodwill and harmony? Have the distinctive faith and culture of Indian Muslims – also Muslims in Kashmir – received even a fraction of the official imprimatur and resources that Hindu events (Kumbh, for example) have been showered with?
On the contrary, under Modi’s watch, popular TV channels (both English and Hindi) that blindly support him have been allowed to spew venom on Kashmiris, who are routinely called ‘gaddars’ (traitors). Modi offered a late and lame condemnation of the attacks on Kashmiris outside Kashmir, but has either he or any of his party colleagues ever condemned the indignities on innocent Kashmiris inside Kashmir? Do blatant human rights violations in Kashmir not feed a sense of alienation in Kashmir? And does such alienation not fuel terrorism, both domestic and aided from across the border?
National Integration Council, Chaired by PM, Has Not Met Even Once Since 2013
Has either the Modi government or the ruling party shown any interest in following Sushmaji’s prescription that “communities must build bridges, and not erect walls”? The answer is exemplified by one alarming fact: the National Integration Council, which the prime minister chairs, has not met even once since its last meeting in 2013. Such is Modi’s disdain for inter-community dialogue.
As Swaraj rightly stated in her speech in Abu Dhabi, “Every religion in the world stands for peace, compassion and brotherhood.” Sadly, Modi and his party believe that the language of hearts does not yield political and electoral dividends. Which is why they have reposed their faith in militaristic hyper-nationalism.
Surely, as both he and the nation mourns Sushmaji’s passing, Prime Minister Modi would do well to heed the words of wisdom from his departed and much-loved ministerial and party colleague.
(The author worked closely with Sushma Swaraj as an aide to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He is founder of the ‘FORUM FOR A NEW SOUTH ASIA’, which seeks to promote India-Pakistan-China dialogue for peace and cooperation. He tweets @SudheenKulkarni and welcomes comments at
This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint nor Indian Spice neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)