SAARC meet to side step the most serious issue of terrorism

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Islamabad, June 24 (ANI): With India and Pakistan once again engaged in the bilateral talks, the SAARC Conference of Home Ministers scheduled to take place here in Pakistan's capital on Saturday is unlikely to discuss seriously the most pressing issue of the region - terrorism.

According to classified documents, which contain the agenda of the conference and obtained from sources privy to conference secretariat, terrorism will come under discussion only as a theoretic subject and no mechanism to curb the menace has been identified in the papers.

All three documents, agenda for the interior/home secretaries meeting, agenda for the interior/home ministers meeting and agenda for the meeting of SAARC officials on Cooperation in Police matters carry the point of 'cooperation to curb the terrorism', but there is no single line mentioned to define the ways to remove this problem.

A technical-level meeting of SAARC countries' junior level officials discussed this issue on Wednesday, but that too only in the limitations of 'sharing the information'.

A list of key terrorists and their groups in SAARC countries was displayed during this session, but no option was discussed to arrest these terrorists and uproot their networks.

The paper, prepared for the ministerial conference,does not even mention these details and is only limited to a declaration for 'sharing the information'.

Surprisingly, the draft prepared for the ministerial meeting, only contains the review of statements issued by different SAARC forums in the past regarding terrorism.

Instead, it is more focused on anti-trafficking, immigration, women and child rights issues and will discuss numerous steps to cooperate in these fields.

The ministerial conference will also review the implementation of various suggestions approved in the previous sessions and will issue the directives to implement all UN and other international charters to protect the women and children and stop their trafficking.

The session also aims to discuss in details and depth the issue of narcotics supply within the region.

All the member countries also expressed their eagerness in the technical-level sessions, which commenced on Wednesday to cooperate in police departments but again no clear line could be drawn for the start of this cooperation.

When asked, officials privy to the conference said the issue of terrorism and ways to curb terrorist activities will be discussed in details in the secretary and minister level meetings under the agenda item of 'Any other matter'.

However, neither the host country nor the SAARC secretariat agreed to provide details in this regard, saying that a joint statement will be issued at the end of the conference to highlight the measures discussed in the consultations.

However Pakistan interior ministry sources said that all talks between representatives of SAARC countries and India Pakistan are stuck between the issues of infiltration on both sides, Kashmir problem, India's demands for action against Hafiz Saeed and his aides who are accused of masterminding the Mumbai attacks and Pakistan's reluctance to trust Mumbai dossiers provided time to time.

"At the SAARC level, all other countries are willing to share all the information but when it comes to India and Pakistan's strategic planning against each other, both go on back foot and don't give exact details about the groups and individuals involved in terrorist activities in the two countries," said a top ministry official.

He said that terrorism was on agenda of both the high level conferences-SAARC and India Pakistan Foreign Secretaries and Ministers' conference, but no one was expecting a landmark outcome form the negotiations.

We fear that when two sides will sit, Pakistan will raise the issue of infiltration in Balochistan and FATA while India will stick to its view that Pakistan is sending militants to Kashmir and was not acting properly to punish the culprits of Mumbai attacks.

Meanwhile, the analysts believe that SAARC will be in position to do anything against terrorism only if Pakistan and India show a willingness to do it.

"If Pakistan and India show progress on their mutual conflicts than SAARC will move forward to eliminate terrorism from the region, otherwise it would be helpless and can't even take a single step," said Pakistan's top security and political analyst and former General Tallat Masood.

"I don't see any improvement on core issues like Kashmir and infiltration even in the Indo-Pak ministerial level talks but I feel they can move forward on the matters relating to Sirkreek, water and economy," he told ANI.

The former general however said that there was great need to solve all the conflicts and two countries should realize this.

"I think the two sides feel this need and understand the quality and level of the challenges they are facing and will move forward now on the issues which can be solved easily," he said.

"At least it is good that they are sitting again because this will bring two sides closer. And I think they are discussing issues because they have felt some needs, it is itself a progress," said General Masood. By Mir Mohammad (ANI)

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