Abu Dhabi : External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday told the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference that Muslims in India were a microcosm of its diversity and very few of them have fallen prey to the poisonous propaganda of radical and extremist ideologies.
Addressing the plenary of the conference as a "Guest of Honour", a first for India, she referred to India' strong bonds with several member countries of the OIC including Bangladesh, Maldives and Afghanistan which are in its neighbourhood.
Swaraj expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and others friends for their strong support for hearing India's voice in this forum.
She also referred to Iran, saying the mutual partnership was vital for stability and prosperity in the region.
The minister said she was honoured to join her colleagues from nations that represent a great religion and ancient civilisations.
She said she was carrying greetings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 1.3 billion Indians, including more than 185 million Muslim brothers and sisters, and was 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.
"Our Muslims brothers and sisters are a microcosm of the diversity of India. They speak Tamil and Telugu, Malayalam and Marathi, Bangla and Bhojpuri or any of the numerous languages of India.
"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."
She said Muslims in India practice their respective beliefs and live in harmony with each other and with their non-Muslim brethren.
"It is this appreciation of diversity and co-existence, that has ensured that very few Muslims in India have fallen prey to poisonous propaganda of radical and extremist ideologies."
She said 2019 was a very special year as OIC is celebrating its Golden Jubilee, United Arab Emirates is celebrating Year of Tolerance and India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, a global symbol of Truth and Non-violence.
"It is, therefore, a matter of pride for me,and for India, to be invited in this special year, to be your Guest of Honour, and to be extended a hand of friendship."
She expressed her deep appreciation to UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed for his sagacious leadership and for his invitation.
Swaraj said that in the past four years, few relationships have seen as much engagement as India's relationship with UAE and indeed, with the entire Gulf and West Asia Region. "It is a return of history."
She said OIC has a key role in shaping the world with countries coming together on the foundation of a common faith as also a shared desire for a better future for their people.
She said India has forged deep bonds of friendship and close partnerships with many members of OIC.
"As India's economy has grown and become more integrated with the world, these partnerships have become stronger. We have excellent political ties, marked by warmth, respect and goodwill. With many, we have expanding defence and security cooperation."
"Our economic engagement is robust and growing rapidly. Our digital partnerships are shaping the course of our future. And, our ties have the warm glow of deepening human and cultural links."
She said countries to India's east including Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia were important pillars of India's Act East Policy and ties with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives were forged in shared struggles, warmth and commitment to the security and prosperity of people and the region.
She said in Central Asia, India was rebuilding its relationship along new routes of possibilities.
"We do this, especially with and through Iran, a country, with which we not only share civilizational and cultural links, but a partnership, that is vital for stability and prosperity in our region."
The minister said India's solidarity with the aspirations of the Palestinian people has remained unwavering.
She referred to the close partnership with Egypt, India and Iraq standing together in our triumphs and trials and support for Jordan's efforts "in strengthening the voices of moderation and building bridges of understanding between faiths".
She said India has been working with countries like Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria with a shared desire for a more inclusive world.
"With Turkey, a nation, with which, we have many strands of connected history, we are imparting new momentum to our ties. Our many friends from Africa are here," she said.
The minister said the Gulf region was India's largest market, supplier of energy and source of remittances.
"More than 8 million Indians living in the region, are the 8 million vibrant threads of this partnership," she said, adding that the relationship has vastly expanded in the past five years.
"It is an indispensable strategic and security partnership, and a natural economic partnership of immense value to our nations and for our shared region," she said.