‘India has infinite capacity to absorb dissent’: NSA Doval at event with Al-Issa
NSA Ajit Doval spoke at length on Indian history, the advent of Islam to the region and the close cultural and economic ties between India and Saudi Arabia dating back many centuries
NEW DELHI: The “incredibly low” number of Indians who joined global terrorism shouldn’t lead to a sense of complacency and India will not shy away from actions such as hot pursuit to eliminate terrorist havens, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval said on Tuesday.
Addressing a gathering that included religious leaders, academics and diplomats, Doval and Muslim World League secretary general Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa highlighted the importance of India’s unity in diversity in relations between different communities, and in the country’s stability and progress.
Doval and Al-Issa, a former Saudi justice minister who heads a body affiliated with Saudi Arabia’s defence ministry dedicated to fighting terrorist ideology, were speaking at an event organised by Khusro Foundation and the India Islamic Cultural Centre. Al-Issa is visiting India at the government’s invitation as part of an outreach to top spiritual leaders of Muslim nations.
“As a proud civilisational state, India believes in promoting tolerance, dialogue and cooperation to deal with the challenges of our time. It is no coincidence that despite having around 200 million Muslims, the involvement of Indian citizens in global terrorism has been incredibly low,” Doval said.
“Yet the challenge of extremism and global terrorism compels us not to lower our guard. To preserve security and stability, we will [guard] our borders and also rise to the security challenges beyond,” he said.
Doval added, “India is an extremely responsible power but when the need for a hot pursuit against terrorist havens was felt, we have gone all out to destroy terrorism in our national interest.” Even amidst “great provocation” in the war against terror, India upheld rule of law, rights of citizens and protection of human values and rights, he said.
“India continues to play its role as a refuge for high product ideas with infinite capacity to absorb dissent. Dissent does not mean disintegration. Dissent does not mean necessarily a confrontation. But in this country, because of your thought, because of your idea, no one is under threat,” Doval said, adding India believes in tolerance, dialogue and cooperation to deal with challenges.
NSA Doval spoke at length on Indian history, the advent of Islam to the region and the close cultural and economic ties between India and Saudi Arabia dating back many centuries, while highlighting how the country has been a melting pot of cultures, religions, languages and ethnicities.
“As an inclusive democracy, India has successfully managed to provide space for all its citizens, regardless of their religious, ethnic and cultural identities. Amongst the numerous religious groups, Islam occupies a unique and significant position of pride, with India being home to the second largest Muslim population in the world,” Doval said, noting that India’s Muslim population is almost equal to the combined population of more than 33 members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“The deep spiritual content of Hinduism and Islam brought people together and helped in bringing about social and intellectual understanding of each other. It gave rise to a distinct and vibrant expression of peace and harmony,” he added.
Al-Issa, considered a leading moderate voice in the Islamic world, repeatedly referred to India’s unity in diversity and how it fosters positive coexistence. “Diversity is an unavoidable part of life. If we understand it in such a manner, then we will be able to approach it very positively,” he said, speaking in Arabic.
“Diversity is a natural part of humanity, and...if we start looking at diversity as a source of enrichment, then there will be a shift in our thinking, a leap forward,” he said. “We are aware that there are negative trends in coexistence around the world and we have to take benefit from the common values that we share and work to strengthen them.”
Islamic culture is open to engaging in dialogue while respecting countries and their constitutions and laws, and Muslims should peacefully coexist with others, Al-Issa said, adding coexistence is “an obligation among Muslims”.
“When there are differences, these should be [addressed] in a manner that shows respect for others...And [Muslims] have to work on seeking avenues of cooperation with others,” he added.
Describing India as a Hindu-majority country with a secular constitution, Al-Issa said the Muslim community is a very important component of society that is proud of its nationality. The “religious awareness” of Indian Muslims should be a tool for co-existence and promoting tolerance and cooperation, he said.
As part of the government’s outreach to the Muslim world, Doval and his Indonesian counterpart Mohammed Mahfud Mahmodin addressed a special meeting of ulema or Muslim scholars in New Delhi last November. The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, also visited India in May and met senior officials, clerics and academics.