After suspected ISIS militants stormed Holey Artisan café in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka and killed 20 hostages (mostly foreigners) at 9:20pm (local time) on July 1, neighbouring India urged the UN General Assembly to adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) as soon as possible.
The CCIT is a draft proposed by India in 1996 that has yet to be adopted by the UNGA. The Convention calls for a universal definition of terrorism, as New Delhi believes that there is no “good terrorist” or “bad terrorist”. India also wants the world body to ban all terror outfits regardless of the country of their operation and to cut off their access to funds and safe heavens. The Convention further proposes prosecution of all terror outfits, including cross-border groups. The draft CCIT even advises countries to amend their domestic laws in order to make cross-border terror an extraditable offence.
The UNGA is yet to adopt the Convention, as the US and some other Latin American countries have blocked the move. The US and its allies have expressed concerns over definitions of terrorism, including acts by American soldiers in international interventions without UN mandate. While some Latin American nations have reservations about international humanitarian laws that have been accommodated by the changes to the draft, member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) believe that the Convention could be used to target Pakistan and restrict rights of self-determination groups in Palestine and elsewhere in the world.
Immediately after the suspected ISIS militants butchered nine Italians, seven Japanese, two Bangladeshis, one American and one Indian in Dhaka, Indian Ambassador to the UN Syed Akbaruddin tweeted: “Terror striking everyday now – Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan, Kenya & Bangladesh. Mere condemnation and commiseration @un won’t do. Need CCIT.” Speaking at the UNGA later on Saturday, the envoy said: “The perpetrators of terrorist attacks, as well as the states that support and sponsor or provide safe havens to terrorists or terrorist groups, must be made accountable.” He also expressed India’s disappointment on the failed early enactment of the CCIT, saying that the Convention should be adopted by the next UNGA session. Akbaruddin further urged the international community to support the use of “stronger language” in the resolution about the CCIT, stressing that it became important to “set a finite time frame for adoption of the Convention”. The seasoned Indian diplomat expressed hope that the counter-terrorism resolution would “convey a clear signal that counter-terrorism has a significant place on the UN agenda”.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the deadly terror attack in Dhaka. On Saturday, Prime Minister Modi spoke to his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina and expressed condolences, saying: “The attack in Dhaka has pained us beyond words. I strongly condemned the despicable attack.” He also asserted that India “stands firmly with its sisters and brothers of Bangladesh in this hour of grief” and “my thoughts are with the bereaved families”.
Prime Minister Hasina, too, condemned the attack, stressing: “What kind of Muslims are these who are killing other humans during Ramadan? They don’t have any religion, their only religion is terrorism.”
On Friday night, the gunmen attacked the upscale Holey Artisan café and took the diners in hostage in the diplomatic area of Dhaka. They spared only those, who were able to recite verses from the holy Quran, and killed others brutally with sharp weapons. The 12-hour-long hostage crisis at the café, popular with foreigners, ended after a two-hour-long assault on Saturday morning by the Bangladeshi Armed Forces’ commandos. Six police officers were also killed by shrapnel during the operation, bringing the total toll to 28. One assailant was held by the security forces, while 13 hostages, including two Sri Lankans and a Japanese, were rescued.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Hasina’s Political Adviser Hossain Toufique Imam blamed Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the premier intelligence service of Pakistan, for facilitating the attack. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Imam said that all the six assailants were members of local outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a group banned over a decade ago. “This was done by JMB. Pakistan’s ISI and JMB connection is well known. They want to derail the current government,” he told the media. Imam met the press after photographs of the attackers were released by the SITE Intelligence Group, although the names declared did not correspond with the images.