13 Dec :Asserting that all democratic forces should unite to fight terrorism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday that the governments of the region have a "moral duty" to take firm and expeditious action against the menace.
"In our region, there is growing awareness that terrorism and extremism pose a threat to democracy and development. Governments and authorities in our region and elsewhere have a moral duty to act firmly and quickly," he said inaugurating an international conference of jurists on Terrorism, Rule of Law and Human Rights in New Delhi.
The Prime Minister called on "all peace-loving and democratic forces" around the world to join hands in the fight against all manifestations of extremism and intolerance.
"The threat of terrorism is not divisible. The fight against it is also not divisible. The defence of freedom and peace is also not divisible," Singh said.
Thanking the international community for expressing solidarity with India in the wake of the "horrible" terror strikes in Mumbai, Singh said he had received phone calls and letters from heads of State and Government from several countries, including those from India’s neighbourhood.
They have assured India that "they stand with us in our fight against terrorism," he said.
Singh, however, warned that the fight against terror "should not result in the brutalisation of our society."
"We must also ensure that no group or section of society gets targeted in our commitment to fight terrorism. What is required is flexibility," the Prime Minister said.Singh said the Mumbai terror attacks were "an organised attempt by forces inimical to freedom and peace in our region to destroy Indian democracy by striking at the very roots of our nationhood.
These terrorists seek to pit one community against another. There is a systematic effort to spread communal disharmony and conflict."
Maintaining that the terrorists were seeking to destroy India’s economy and democracy, Singh said "there is a method in their madness."
"When cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad are targeted, the target is also India’s economic rise… When democracy is challenged in India, it is a challenge to the human spirit the world over," he said.
Referring to the assembly elections held in the midst of the terror strikes, Singh said it was a matter of national pride that people across several states exercised their franchise to "demonstrate their faith in the rule of law and our democratic system. Even in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, we have seen record polling so far."
But democracy did not mean just to exercise franchise once in five years because every day, at every place, "a free people expect to see that rule of law prevail through transparent and proper functioning of democratic institutions.
"There is no better insurance against the forces of extremism, intolerance and terrorism than the efficient and fair functioning of the institutions of democratic governance," he said.