In a major diplomatic achievement, India on Friday for the first time addressed the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Abu Dhabi, and asserted that the war against terrorism, which was destabilising regions and putting the world at great peril, was not against any religion.
India's participation came despite strong demand by Pakistan to rescind the invitation to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to address the grouping of the OIC which was turned down by the host United Arab Emirates, resulting in Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi boycotting the plenary.
The OIC is celebrating its Golden Jubilee.
"Terrorism and extremism bear different names and labels. It uses diverse causes. But in each case, it is driven by distortion of religion, and a misguided belief in its power to succeed.
"The fight against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion," Swaraj, who is the first Indian minister to address the meeting of the 57 Islamic countries, said.
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, a senior minister in Indira Gandhi's cabinet who later became President, was invited to attend the Rabat conference in 1969 and then disinvited at Pakistan's instance after he arrived in the Moroccan capital.
Since then, India has been excluded from all OIC deliberations.
Sawaraj during her address read a verse from the Holy Koran which says 'La Ikrah fiddeen' -- Let there be no compulsion in religion.
"Just as Islam literally means peace, none of the 99 names of Allah mean violence. Similarly, every religion in the world stands for peace, compassion and brotherhood," she said.
"I carry the greetings of my Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji and 1.3 billion Indians, including more than 185 million Muslim brothers and sisters.
"Our Muslims brothers and sisters are a microcosm of the diversity of India itself," the minister said and asserted that ‘very few’ Muslims in India have fallen prey to the poisonous propaganda of radical and extremist ideologies.
During her nearly 17-minute speech, she did not mention Pakistan.
Her remarks came amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan following the killing of 41 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Kashmir's Pulwama district by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Pakistan, a member of the OIC, had written a letter to the grouping demanding the withdrawal of the invitation to the plenary after New Delhi's counter-terror operations in Pakistan on February 26.
Swaraj said she is a representative of a land that has been for ages a fountain of knowledge, a beacon of peace, a source of faiths and traditions, and home to religions from the world -- and now, one of the major economies of the world.
"They have diverse culinary tastes, myriad choices of traditional attire, and they maintain strong cultural and linguistic heritage of the regions they loved and have lived for generations.
"They practice their respective beliefs and live in harmony with each other and with their non-Muslim brethren," Swaraj said.
Swaraj assured the group of the Islamic countries that India will work with the OIC to build bridge of understanding and reduce barriers across cultures and religions and inspire youth to the path of service than of destruction.
She said India, which is the world's third largest economy on Purchasing Power Parity and the fastest growing major economy, advocates moderation over extremism and pluralism over exclusion.
"At 50, the OIC is making a new beginning. The choices you make, the direction you set, will have a profound impact on humanity.
"The OIC has a huge responsibility and a great opportunity to lift humanity to a higher level of peace and prosperity, and to make this planet a better place, not just for your people, but for rest of the world," she said.
The external affairs minister said that India is prepared to share its market, resources, opportunities, and skills with its partners.
"We will do what we can within our capacity to ensure that the path to development remains open to all and the global trade regime is open, stable and fair," she added.
"We will work with you to spread the true meaning and mission of all religions; promote respect for and between faiths; counter the language of hate with the message of harmony; advocate moderation over extremism and pluralism over exclusion."
She said India will also inspire youth to the path of service, than of destruction; build bridge of understanding and reduce barriers across cultures and religions.
She said the OIC members constitute more than one fourth of the members of the United Nations, and nearly a quarter of the humanity.
"It is an organisation, that has a key role in shaping our world. It brings together nations, on the foundation of a common faith, but also by a shared desire for a better future for their people," Swaraj said.
"India shares much with them as many have experienced the dark days of colonialism. We have worked together, to fashion global institutions, into representative platforms, defined not by the interest of a few, but the voice of all sections of humanity.
"We have together struggled for a world, where access to resources, markets and opportunities is fair and balanced. And, with so many nations here, India has forged deep bonds of friendship and close partnerships," she added.
She said, nations to our east, Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia, are important pillars of India's Act East Policy, and of our broader engagement in the Indo-Pacific Region.
"In our neighbourhood, with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives we have ties, forged in our shared struggles and sacrifices, in the immeasurable warmth of our hearts, and in our unwavering commitment to the security and prosperity of our people and region," the minister said.