India has revived its two decade old proposal for the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) at the UN General Assembly in September this year, given the recent spate of terror attacks across the globe.
“As the attack in Dhaka has shown, international terrorism has become the biggest scourge facing the civilised world. India has been trying to build convergence around the CCIT, pending since 1996, so that we can plug an important legal lacuna in the fight against terror,” explained a senior official involved in the process in New Delhi and New York.
Next, say sources, India has been able to complete a draft which effectively counters the opposition from the three main blocs that have raised objections: the U.S., the Organisation of Islamic Countries and the Latin American countries. The original draft that was tabled in 1996 and discussed until April 2013 includes amongst key 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 regardless of their stated objectives, to prosecute all terrorists under special laws, and to make cross-border terrorism an extraditable offence worldwide.
The most powerful objector, the U.S. has been worried about the application of the CCIT to its own military forces especially with regard to interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Changes to the draft, which The Hindu was able to access, will clarify that “the activities of armed forces during an armed conflict” will not be governed by the present convention.
Latin American countries that had concerns about human rights laws have also been accommodated by the changes to the draft. A particular push was made by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to win over the OIC countries, and during meetings with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ministers in New York, and the meeting with the 22-member Arab League leadership in January 2016 that have so far been worried about the impact of the CCIT on countries like Pakistan and Palestine. In particular, India agreed to insert the word “peoples” when speaking of rights, in order to “acknowledge the right of self-determination”, sources told The Hindu.
As a result, speaking at her annual press conference on June 19, Ms. Swaraj said that she had “received endorsements of various countries on this important issue and we strongly feel that we would be able to get CCIT passed.”
Significantly, despite the current impasse over the NSG, China, that recently blocked India’s moves for a UN ban on Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar, is not expected to pose hurdles for the CCIT, having endorsed it in BRICS and RIC (Russia-India-China) statements. Officials however, warned that Pakistan and a few other countries would most probably oppose India’s move to the hilt.
Adding to the government’s confidence is the fact that the committee that will hear India’s case for the CCIT, in meetings due to start in early September, will be chaired by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Dannon, who was elected to the “Sixth Committee” that deals with legal issues as well as “measures to eliminate international terrorism”.
However senior diplomats warned that while having a friendly nation that cooperates closely with India on the committee is helpful, it could equally cause roadblocks, as many Arab countries that opposed Mr. Dannon’s election may also “abstain or oppose” from voting on the CCIT.
Indian officials too warn against too much optimism on having the CCIT passed, given the sluggish pace of United Nations reforms like the Security Council membership that India has made little headway on.