Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour to be invited to this distinguished gathering at the AJC Annual Dinner. The people of India admire the pioneering work of AJC, particularly in promoting human rights and combating religious discrimination. We also value your contribution to promoting US-India relations and India-Israel relations.
India has a historical affinity with the Jewish people. It is one of very few countries in the world with no history of anti-Semitism. Until the early 1990's, the constraints of the Cold War prevented this cordiality from extending to India's relations with Israel. Now we have full diplomatic relations, and a broad range of economic and, defence cooperation. We have increased the tempo of our high-level visits. We hope to receive Prime Minister Ariel Sharon soon in India on an official visit.
The end of the Cold War also ushered in a major transformation in India's relations with USA. Our Prime Minister has referred to the two countries as `natural allies'. The US National Security Strategy report, released last September by President Bush, asserts that the two countries have common strategic interests.
India, the United States and Israel have some fundamental similarities. We are all democracies, sharing a common vision of pluralism, tolerance and equal opportunity. Stronger India-US relations and India-Israel relations have a natural logic.
I am pleased to see so many distinguished members of the United States Congress here today. They are
friends of Israel. They are also friends of India. The Caucus on India and Indian-Americans in the House of
Representatives has nearly 160 members. It is perhaps the largest single country-Caucus in the House,
testifying to the growing bonds of friendship between the world's oldest democracy and its largest.
The increasing contact between the AJC and Indian-American community organizations is another positive reflection of shared values of our peoples.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our principal theme here today is a collective remembrance of the horrors of terrorism and a celebration of the alliance of free societies involved in combating this scourge. The US, India and Israel have all been prime targets of terrorism. They have to jointly face the same ugly face of modern day terrorism.
This is a common challenge. Global terrorism did not start on September 11, 2001. But that date marks a global awakening to its reach.
The international coalition against terrorism has scored some successes. Terrorism needs to be rooted out wherever it exists.
After over a year and a half of the global fight against terrorism, it is far from over. The leaders of the AI-Qaeda remain at large. We keep hearing that they have the know-how and the material to build at least a crude radiological device. This is naturally a matter of extreme concern. We cannot ignore this spectre of globalization of terror and its intersection with WMD.
We see worrying signs of a regrouping of Taliban elements in southern and southeastern Afghanistan. And this is only a segment of the international terrorist network. It will, therefore, be a long haul and its success would require a genuine commitment to its objectives by every member of the international coalition.
It is most unfortunate that some diversionary arguments are still preventing a consensus on important anti-terrorist conventions. An agreed definition of terrorism still eludes the international community. Distinctions sought to be made between freedom fighters and terrorists propagate a bizarre logic, which glorifies massacres of one set of innocent civilians, while condemning killings of others.
Another fallacy motivatedly propagated is that terrorism can only be eradicated by addressing its `root
causes'. This is nonsense. Terrorist attacks against innocents have no justification. Democratic societies,
which address the `root causes' of alienation and anger through pluralism and socio-economic justice, are
precisely the targets of terrorism.
As the main targets of international terrorism, democratic countries should form a viable alliance against terrorism and develop the multi-lateral mechanisms to counter it. Such an alliance would have the political will and moral authority to take b old decisions in extreme cases of terrorist provocation. It would not get bogged down in definitional and causal arguments about terrorism. Blocking financial supplies, disrupting networks, sharing intelligence, simplifying extradition procedures - these are preventive measures which can only be effective through international cooperation based on trust and shared values.
A core, consisting of democratic societies, has therefore to gradually emerge from within our existing coalition, which can take on international terrorism in a holistic and focused manner. It would ensure that the global campaign against terrorism, is pursued to its logical conclusion, and does not run out of steam, because of other preoccupations. We owe this commitment to our future generations.