Tuesday, December 25, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

SAARC summit to focus on terrorism
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 24
With terrorism spreading its tentacles in the SAARC region, leaders of the seven-member grouping will focus on coordinated action to tackle the menace.

Several member states afflicted by terrorist violence are keen that India should take the lead in outlining a combined strategy for containing this problem. It is widely believed India is best suited to show the way for concerted action as it has borne the brunt of cross-border terrorism for nearly two decades.

New Delhi has been consistently taking up the issue of international terrorism at various international fora for several years but the industrialised countries failed to realise the severity of this scourge. The enormity of the horrors of international terrorism sunk in worldwide only after the ghastly air-borne terrorist strikes in New York and Washington on September 11.

Even though Pakistan has joined the US-led international coalition in the war against international terrorism, it has not shown any signs of stopping its gambit of trying to bleed India through a proxy war.

The focused attention on taking up the challenge of cross-border terrorism at the upcoming SAARC summit can be highly disturbing for Pakistan. Islamabad finds itself isolated internationally for aiding and abetting cross-border terrorism. It has had no option but to render assistance to the USA in its fight against the repressive Taliban regime, Saudi fugitive Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaida terrorist outfit operating out of Afghanistan.

SAARC member countries are convinced that India can provide the requisite data base and other critical inputs about terrorist networks and their operations as these are no longer confined to any single country and extends far beyond this region and West Asia.

The latest chill in Indo-Pakistan relations following the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament has compelled New Delhi to adopt step-by-step diplomatic offensive against Islamabad. This has assumed importance in the light of the evidence that the attack on India’s seat of democracy was carried out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad based in Pakistan.

Nepal’s Ambassador to India Bhekh Bahadur Thapa acknowledged here this afternoon that terrorism which had assumed an acute form in some member countries will be high on the agenda of the January 4 SAARC summit in Kathmandu.

He dismissed all speculation about the SAARC summit being a non-starter on the ground that India and Pakistan have assured that they “will be represented at the highest level. The communication from India in this regard has been consistent.”

“Terrorism which is affecting us internally and collectively will be dealt with at the SAARC summit besides other issues like converting SAARC into a free trade area,” Mr Thapa observed at a press conference convened at short notice. Though the Ambassador did not name the countries affected by terrorism, he was clearly alluding to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

At the same time the Ambassador acknowledged that by convention the SAARC summit could he held only when the executive heads of state and government of all seven member states are present.

Expressing happiness that the SAARC process was being resumed after a gap of more than three years, Mr Thapa explained that preparations were on in full swing in Kathmandu for staging the summit and we will leave no stone unturned in making it a success.”

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