The seven-nation BIMSTEC grouping on Friday adopted a convention to combat terrorism and insurgency, a step that is expected to add teeth to India’s action against militancy, particularly in its north east.
Foreign Ministers of India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Thailand and Nepal signed the Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Trans-National Organised Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking at the 12th BIMSTEC Ministerial meeting here.
The ministers also agreed to include climate change as a key area of cooperation for the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries.
Inaugurating the ministerial meet, Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein stressed on cooperation in combating terrorism and trans-national organised crime.
“As you heard the Prime Minister of Myanmar in his inaugural address did stress on terrorism. I think terrorism has become a hot issue for discussion. There is unanimity about recognising the fact that terror has become one of the major irritants, one of the major obstacles for development and growth,” External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told reporters here.
The signing of the convention coincides with India stepping up action against its north east insurgents, particularly the ULFA. There were reports that ULFA leader Paresh Barua was recently present in the Kachin region of Myanmar bordering China.
Mr. Krishna said groupings like BIMSTEC provide leaders an ideal background to exchange notes and to further resolve that terror has to be dealt with squarely and decisively.
“Insurgents find safe havens in other countries. All the countries must be conscious of the fact that we must not allow insurgents to operate from our territory because it would be harmful for the entire neighbourhood. We hope that sufficient care would be taken about it,” Mr. Krishna said.
He said the Convention would provide a legal framework for enforcement agencies of the member nations to cooperate in combating the scourge of terrorism, organised crime and drug trafficking.
“The Convention would send a strong message to the perpetrators of such crimes that the BIMSTEC region can no longer be used as a safe haven and the governments and the people of the region are united in their response to the threat posed by terrorism, organised crime and drug trafficking,” he said in his address to the plenary.
Besides Mr. Krishna, the ministerial meeting was attended by Bangladesh Foreign Ministers Dipu Moni, Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering of Bhutan, U Nyan Win of Myanmar, Sujata Koirala of Nepal, Rohitha Bogollagama of Sri Lanka and Kasit Piromaya of Thailand.
As the meeting got underway, Mr. Krishna handed over the Chairmanship of BIMSTEC to his Myanmar counterpart U Nyan Win.
“You will always get unfailing support from India to support the consolidation of BIMSTEC,” Mr. Krishna said.
The Senior Officials Meeting, which concluded yesterday, also finalised two Memoranda of Association for establishment of the BIMSTEC Energy Centre and the BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate.
The also agreed on signing the Memorandum of Understanding on establishment of the BIMSTEC Cultural Industries Commission and the BIMSTEC Cultural Industries Observatory.
“We encouraged the member states to sign the remaining three documents at the earliest,” a joint statement adopted at the end of the meeting said.
The foreign ministers welcomed the finalisation of the agreement on trade in goods and asked the negotiators to reach an understanding on the annexes at the earliest.
The ministers took note of the ongoing talks on the Agreements on Services and Investment under BIMSTEC FTA, and urged the member states to conclude them as soon as possible.
Climate change has emerged as the new area of cooperation among the BIMSTEC member nations and the leaders.
“We are confident that the inclusion of this new area of cooperation will contribute significantly to the joint efforts on the mitigation and adaptation to climate change in the BIMSTEC region,” the joint statement said.
The ministers also agreed to enhance cooperation in the areas of transport and communication, tourism, energy, technology fisheries, poverty alleviation, agriculture, environment and disaster management and public health.
A BIMSTEC meeting on the Network of National Centres of Coordination in Traditional Medicine is scheduled to be held in Thailand next year.