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Delhi Declaration: Assessing Outcomes of UNSC CTC’s Special Meeting

Ms Saman Ayesha Kidwai is Research Analyst at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • November 16, 2022

    The Delhi Declaration, issued after the Special Meeting of the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) in October 2022, signalled multiple symbolic victories for India, in that it affirmed its key security concerns. The document also underlined core dilemmas for the global community, requiring swift resolution, and measures to make that happen.

    External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar’s keynote address highlighted how the UNSC CTC has managed to place immense global scrutiny on those actors that ‘turned terrorism into a state-funded enterprise’.1 Likely, this was an implicit condemnation of Pakistan’s foreign policy of destabilising India’s national security and territorial integrity via terrorism. Furthermore, to advance the international fight against eliminating terrorism, India pledged US$ 500,000 to the UN Trust Fund for Counter-Terrorism.2

    Nonetheless, challenges persist. Member states have differing perceptions about what constitutes terrorism. Furthermore, implementing the Delhi Declaration will be a painstaking task for any stakeholder because its clauses are non-binding and recurrent threats in South Asia and Africa might hinder regional actors from getting involved in resolving global challenges.

    Key themes of the declaration

    Representatives of all 15 UNSC member states unanimously approved the declaration, agreeing that UN agencies, civil society actors, and the private sector will need to strengthen counter-terrorism engagement and cooperation collectively, with human rights being at the centre of any initiatives undertaken.

    Secondly, most of the clauses incorporated in the declaration’s final draft underlined dilemmas central to India’s fight against radicalisation, violent extremism, and terrorism. Consequently, it provided the political and diplomatic leadership opportune momentum heading into its December 2022 Presidency, ushering in a global shift in perception about critical terrorist threats facing humankind.

    Thirdly, the emphasis placed on threats posed by al-Qaeda and ISIS underlines that member states are cognisant of threats posed by these terrorist organisations, should they resurge to displaying the scale of violence visible in their heyday and their destabilising effects on local communities and regional security architectures.

    Finally, discussions about weaponisation of social media, online radicalisation, cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies, and unmanned aerial systems (UAS), among other advancements by terrorists, predominated the two-day event and its participants. The terrorists have increasingly relied on social media and encrypted chat forums to target specific areas and gain traction among radicalised individuals.

    Additionally, the heightened focus on evolving technologies and their use by terrorist groups affirm that despite states’ use of conventional strategies to defeat them, information technology, UAS, and social media will determine the outcome of counter-terrorism initiatives. Ensuring respect for international law and the need to curb financial terrorism, visible on crowdfunding platforms, were the other critical themes highlighted by the declaration.

    Underlying Indian Interests

    The principles (of the Delhi Declaration) highlighted below are of critical importance to Indian interests due to its experiences in confronting cross-border terrorism. Some of them have been explained below, using relevant examples.3

    • “Notes with additional concern the increasing global misuse of UAS by terrorists…into critical infrastructure…and to traffic drugs and arms.”

    This clause is of particular significance to Indian law enforcement and security agencies, more so in Punjab and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). J&K is vital in upholding the country’s security calculus due to frequent reports about narcotics and arms seizures from across the border. Overall, it has experienced a 2000 per cent uptick in heroin seizures over the last five years.4

    • “Notes with concern the increased use, in a globalized society, by terrorists and their supporters of internet and other information and communications technologies, including social media platforms…such as the recruitment and incitement… as well as financing, planning, and preparation...”

    This clause has a direct correlation with anti-India sentiments brewed by Pakistan-sponsored proxy groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed or their front organisations like The Resistance Front and Kashmir Freedom Fighters, or separatists. These groups have relied on encrypted platforms like Telegram or social media platforms like Twitter to instigate communal tensions and disseminate anti-India rhetoric. They have collectively attempted to weaponise social media outreach for their repeated attempts at recruitment, to glorify violence and the acts of terrorists neutralised by Indian armed forces, and to espouse their violent extremist propaganda.

    Moreover, while other arrests were made, on 14 October 2022, J&K State Investigation Agency cracked down on two individuals—Peerzaada Fahad Shah and Abdul Aala Fazili—for using the written word or partaking in ‘narrative terrorism’.5 With the advent of digital media and its ease of distribution and accessibility, non-state actors have latched on to such developments to pursue their destabilising cause of undermining Indian security. Kashmirwala is one such online magazine whose editor, Fazili, published articles, including those authored by Shah, to radicalise the impressionable youth.

    • “Underlines that terrorists’ opportunity to access safe havens continues to be a significant concern…identify safe havens…bring them to justice…any person who supports, facilitates, participates or …in the financing, planning, preparation or commission of terrorist acts, including by providing safe havens.”  

    The reason for highlighting this is because one of the primary hurdles in neutralising existing and potential threats stemming from across the Line of Control leads to China. During the past five months, it has consistently vetoed any probability of Pak-based terrorists like Talha Saeed, Shahid Mehmood, Abdul Rahman Makki, and Rauf Asghar being listed as UN-designated terrorist entities under the 1267 al-Qaeda sanctions committee regime.6

    India’s unilateral or joint proposals with other countries like the United States have, therefore, faced difficulties in achieving consensus in international and multilateral formats like the UNSC CTC.

    Similar attempts by India or interested stakeholders to reform counter-terrorism measures are met with staunch opposition from China and Pakistan, who accuse the former of ‘politicising the counter-terrorism issue’.7

    UAS, and their exploitation by terrorists, emerged as one of the key themes during the UNSC’s special meeting, as stated above. The use of drones for narcotics or arms trafficking into J&K for sustaining militancy in the union territory has become a vital cause of concern for Indian security agencies. 

    Successes and Shortcomings

    The principles encompassing the Delhi Declaration laid bare the resounding success of India’s counter-terrorism initiatives globally and how its core security concerns broadly resonate with the members of the UNSC. Additionally, the special meeting marked a milestone as the first UNSC meeting, in any manifestation, to occur in India. Finally, events and testimonies spanning 28 and 29 October 2022 in Mumbai and New Delhi, reinforced India’s resilience in combatting terrorism.

    Nonetheless, despite its symbolic victories, analysts need to understand that the document is fraught with challenges, mainly due to its non-binding nature. On the one hand, it did not encapsulate the specific security challenges emanating from the Af-Pak region after the Taliban’s takeover and TTP’s resurgence or the Horn of Africa, where groups like al-Shabaab have caused widespread devastation in Somalia. Nor did it address how the international community can collectively tackle them to prevent a worldwide spill over.

    Furthermore, while the Western countries have proven quick to condemn Russian actions in Ukraine, the declaration did not display a similar show of force in explicitly decrying Pakistan’s actions in India. Perhaps, the United States continued dependence on the Pakistani state to sustain its regional counter-terrorism efforts, reflected in the recent sale of F-16s, hinders that from occurring.


    As India transitions into the UNSC CTC’s December session, it must deliberate on how the member states can proceed towards practical implementation of at least some of the agreed-upon principles to avoid them becoming redundant and address its core concerns highlighted earlier. Moreover, subsequent meetings should also incorporate a deep-seated understanding of how children bear the impact of technologically driven terrorism and how that challenge can be effectively addressed to curtail non-state actors from exploiting this demographic group for violent purposes. Finally, potential CTC documents must look at how technology and social media can be successfully placed at the forefront of each states’ de-radicalisation strategies to counter terrorist strategies as an effective counter-response.

    Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrrikar IDSA or of the Government of India.