Addressing the tenth Asian Security Conference here, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the challenge of terrorism haunted the entire world today. ''Asia in particular is the home to by far the largest number of terrorist groups in the world. India has been facing this curse since the 1980s, first in Punjab, then in Jammu and Kashmir, and now in other parts of the country as well,'' he said. He said terrorists have successfully used weakly governed territories to organise attacks, recruit and train their cadres. This fact, however, should not obscure the responsibility of the state concerned to prevent the misuse of its territory for terrorist attacks, he added.
''Terrorism is not a political tool to be deployed and withdrawn at will, for it could turn around and critically wound the state that wields it,'' the External Affairs Minister said, citing Afghanistan as a telling example in this regard.
He said continuing to allow terror groups to enjoy the luxury of space would have terrible consequences for the world at large.
''It is vital that Afghanistan emerges as a stable and peaceful country that no longer serves a base for these (terror) groups.'' Mr Mukherjee said the legitimately elected government in Kabul must be enabled to extend its rule throughout the country.
The External Affairs Minister said reconstruction activities need to go hand in hand with efforts to combat radical groups and ensure security. ''India is one of the largest contributors to the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. We have committed around 800 million US dollars. Around 3500 Indians work in various projects in that country. We will persevere with our earnest efforts in this regard and we will continue to co-ordinate these efforts with those of the international community,'' he added.
Mr Mukherjee also called for effective steps to stabilise Iraq, which was being torn apart by various factors, including sectarian conflict and a violent insurgency.
''Failure will have repercussions throughout the West Asian region. Regional instability could damage the international economy by disrupting energy supplies and further driving up oil prices which have already breached the 100 dollar mark.'' He said the rapid economic growth, especially in Asia, was causing increased demands for fossil fuels. ''At the same time, reserves are estimated to deplete in future. There is the additional fear that energy flows could be disrupted either by the actions of states or non-state actors.''
The Minister said the Asian countries, which predominantly source their fossil fuel requirements from the Persian Gulf, seem particularly vulnerable to such disruptions. ''They all feel the acute need to ensure security, stability and sustainability of fossil fuel supplies,'' he added.
The three-day conference -- Asian Security in 2ist Century -- is being organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) here.