M A I N   N E W S

India to call for joint SAARC plan on terror
Heavy security for summit

Security officials keep guard at dusk outside the convention centre in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad on Sunday. The convention centre is the main venue for the upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit from January 4 to 6.
Security officials keep guard at dusk outside the convention centre in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad on Sunday. The convention centre is the main venue for the upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit from January 4 to 6. — Reuters photo

New Delhi, December 28
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will exhort SAARC nations during their January 4-6 summit in Islamabad to take a cue from Bhutan’s recent crackdown on Indian insurgent groups and adopt a joint strategy to rid South Asia of the menace of terrorism.

The Prime Minister, who will lead the Indian delegation to the summit, is also expected to use the platform to unveil his vision for a strong South Asia, which includes economic integration of the region and a common currency.

India will also make efforts to ensure that terrorism is dealt with adequately in the draft declaration being prepared for the 12th summit of the seven-nation grouping that brings together India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives. The summit is taking place after a gap of two years.

“We want to see that due importance is attached to terrorism in the document in the regional context and that it takes into account international developments,’’ official sources said.

Mr Vajpayee, who has been extremely appreciative of Bhutan’s drive in recent days against North-east insurgent groups operating from within Bhutanese territory, will seek similar action against anti-Indian groups from other SAARC member-countries, especially Pakistan and Bangladesh.

‘’We want to see what cooperation we can get from SAARC member- countries in initiating action against such groups operating from within their territories,’’ the sources said.

The issue is bound to figure during a bilateral meeting that Mr Vajpayee is likely to have with Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia on the sidelines of the summit.

Indian officials feel that General Musharraf will be keen on a meeting with Mr Vajpayee so as to be able to demonstrate to his people and the world that he can engage with India.

The summit will take place against the background of the two recent attempts within days of each other on General Musharraf’s life. India will watch with interest the changes that Pakistan will make, following these two incidents in the paragraphs, on terrorism in the draft declaration that has been circulated among member-countries.

According to some reports, Pakistan has, in the draft prepared by it, attempted to whittle down the strong language on terrorism that the Heads of State and Government of SAARC member-states had adopted at their 11th Summit in Kathmandu two years ago.

Asked about the draft circulated by Pakistan, Foreign Secretary Shashank said at his briefing for reporters on the summit here yesterday that ‘’it is only a draft and the final document will emerge on the basis of a consensus among member-countries.’’

He admitted there were differences between India and Pakistan on the definition of terrorism, a factor which was also delaying the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism introduced by India at the UN.

Mr Shashank was confident that the declaration to be issued by the leaders at the end of the summit would strengthen the 1987 SAARC Convention on Terrorism. He said the additional protocol in this regard would come up for discussions during the meeting.

On the economic front, India was hoping that the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement would be concluded at the summit.

Mr Shashank felt that the signing of SAFTA would be a major achievement for the grouping.

Mr S.S. Kapoor, Joint Secretary in the Commerce Ministry, said SAFTA would become operational on January 1, 2006, if an agreement was reached on it at the summit.

Mr Kapoor said considerable progress had been made in negotiations on the agreement over the past two years and was hopeful that the few differences that remained would be ironed out at the meeting of SAARC Foreign Secretaries on December 31 and January 1.

According to him, least developed countries (LDCs) like Bangladesh felt that the developing countries like India should open up their markets for them within three years while others felt that it should happen over a period of five years.

Mr Shashank said the reports of the meetings of SAARC Health and Information Ministers as well as those of SAARC regional centres would be submitted to the summit.

On the social charter to be signed by SAARC leaders, Mr Shashank said India wanted an additional chapter on cooperation in the area of health to be incorporated in the draft. In this connection, he referred to the strides made by India in the pharmaceutical sector, especially in the matter of anti-AIDS drugs and HIV vaccines.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani army troops were positioned in hills overlooking the capital Islamabad for the first time on Sunday as part of massive security efforts for next week’s SAARC summit.

The measure, unprecedented for any summit here, follows two assassination attempts on President Pervez Musharraf this month, the latest killing 15 persons on Christmas Day.

“Whatever security measures are required will be made,” Pakistan military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan told AFP.

“Whatever number of troops is required for the security will be deployed,” he added.

General Sultan said army helicopters would also take part in security surveillance during the summit.

The heads of state and government of SAARC nations would start arriving on January 3, foreign office spokesman Masood Khan said.

“We are giving top priority and the fullest attention to security,” Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar said.

Key roads leading to the two big hotels where the foreign guests would be staying would be barred to ordinary traffic along with the route to the Convention Centre, the summit’s venue.

“No private vehicle will be allowed on these roads during the summit period,” Mr Khan said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali today held discussions with opposition leaders to evolve the strategy to be adopted by Pakistan at the SAARC summit.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri briefed the leaders on SAARC and other regional issues, including Kashmir. — UNI, AFP



ARD boycotts Jamali's meeting
K.J.M. Verma

Islamabad, December 28
Pakistan's pro-democracy parties today boycotted a special meeting held by premier Zafarullah Khan Jamali to brief them about the issues and preparations for next week's SAARC summit as also the controversy surrounding the alleged proliferation of nuclear technology by the country's scientists.

The 15-party Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), consisting moderate opposition parties, including Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-N, boycotted the meeting by Mr Jamali for the country's political parties.

While the Islamist alliance Muttahida Majlis-e Amal (MMA), which called off its agitation against President Pervez Musharraf this week after reaching an agreement on his controversial constitutional amendments, attended the meeting, the ARD boycotted it saying it did not want to give a “photo opportunity” to the government to show the people that it too was a part of the MMA government deal.

“We do not want to be seen as a part of MMA government agreement on constitutional amendments and General Musharraf. If we attended they would use it as a photo opportunity. The boycott has nothing to do with SAARC,” PPP spokesman, Senator Faratullah Babar, said.

MMA leaders, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman of Jamat Ulema Islami and Qazi Hussain Ahmad of Jamat-e-Islami, attended the meeting in which Mr Jamali and Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri briefed them about the SAARC summit and the chances of bilateral meetings between Indian and Pakistani leaders on the sidelines of the summit.

The MMA leaders were also briefed on the questioning of top nuclear scientists by security agencies following allegations of proliferation of nuclear technology to Iran and Libya. — PTI

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