India’s stand against ‘UN’s selectivity on religions’ gains force from its secularism
In a strong statement at the UN General Assembly discussing resolutions of the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) on the ‘Culture of Peace’, India criticised the world body for what it called “selectivity” in seeking to protect Abrahamic religions — Islam, Christianity and Judaism — over others. The Indian delegate pointed out that previous resolutions of the UNAOC dating back to 2006 had repeatedly decried the hatred against those religions — “Islamophobia, Christianophobia and anti-Semitism” — but didn’t condemn attacks on other religious groups including Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, who have suffered terror strikes and seen their shrines destroyed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In particular, India said, the UNGA statement welcomed the Kartarpur Gurdwara corridor agreement between India and Pakistan, but failed to note that Pakistan’s government has taken over the management of the Sikh shrine, which it called a contravention of the agreement and a violation of Sikh beliefs. India’s delegate also accused Pakistan of a “culture of hatred” against “religions in India” and fostering cross-border terrorism and said a culture of peace cannot exist until that is changed. Above all, the Indian statement said, the UN’s selectivity under the aegis of the UNAOC, an organisation that was set up in 2005 to prevent polarisation between societies and cultures and to bridge differences between them, only serves to further the theory of an inevitable “clash of civilisations” instead.
India’s concerns over the UN resolutions that portray only three religions as victims of religious hatred are completely valid, and it is important that they are broadened to include every community that faces religion-based violence. It is also important that the government thwarts Pakistan’s particularly insidious attempts to create a controversy against India at this time, by pushing these resolutions as India steps to take its two-year seat at the UN Security Council. New Delhi has been concerned by an increase in intrusive language from the UN bodies concerned as well, given that UNAOC issued a statement of “grave concern” over the Delhi riots in February this year that it said resulted in casualties of “mostly Muslims”. India is keen to push back on the UNAOC and other UN arms, like the UN Human Rights Council, that have criticised the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. As it seeks to do all of this, however, the government must be careful about ensuring that in exposing the UN’s “selectivity” it doesn’t open a flank for a counter-charge against India. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, for example, has been criticised for offering fast-track citizenship to only a select group of religions, leaving out Muslims. India cannot call for a culture of peace that stitches together an alliance of faiths, while Indian States bring laws that seek to make difficult inter-faith marriages. In the larger analysis, the force of India’s argument against the UN’s selective resolutions and non-inclusive language as well as the international efforts of adversaries such as Pakistan remains its own secular credentials enshrined in the Constitution and its pluralistic ethos.