SAARC Summit to finalise Convention against regional crime

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New Delhi, Jul 31 (UNI) The 15th SAARC Summit in Colombo on August 2-3 will finalise a common strategy to combat growing terrorism and crime in the region.

The two-day Summit of the Heads of State/Government of eight South Asian nations will also deliberate on issues of development in the region, connectivity and food and energy security.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will leave here tomorrow morning to attend the Summit.

The Summit, being held under the shadow of a spurt in terrorist activities in the region, is likely to be dominated by discussions on collective action against the scourge.

''South Asia is vulnerable to terrorism and collective action is needed to curb the scourge,'' External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said today.

Negotiations have already been initiated on an agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters which are likely to be finalised during the two-day Summit on August 2-3.

There is also a possibility that some documents would be signed.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here last week that a Convention on mutual legal assistance in tackling crime is likely to be finalised at the Summit.

He said the suicide bomb attack at the Indian embassy in Kabul showed the vulnerability of South Asia to terrorism.

''We have initiated discussions on a draft convention on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. This will enable us to implement action against such crimes in the neighbourhood with regional cooperation...the discussions will be finalised at the forthcoming summit,'' he said at a seminar.

The Union Cabionet also last week gave its approval to the External Affairs Ministry to negotiate and finalise the text of the Convention and sign the convention during the SAARC Summit. The signing of the convention would be subject to the successful finalisation and ratification of the convention.

The convention will provide a broad framework for SAARC member countries to mutually cooperate and assist in the investigation and prosecution of crime and the tracing and forfeiture of the proceeds and instruments of crime.

Under the convention, the member states shall grant to one other the widest possible measure of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

India which is current Chairman XXX Eds pl pick up from para six of DI 21, External--PM-SAARC.

UNI RB RR VC1808

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