It will create a more secure environment in the region

As Interior Ministers of the eight member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) identified terrorism as their biggest concern, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Saturday urged his colleagues from the neighbourhood to implement the SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters forthwith without awaiting its ratification.

The Convention, considered vital to facilitate evidence sharing and seizure of funds meant for criminal and terrorist activities, has not come into effect because it has to go through the legal process in some countries.

Suggesting that the SAARC convention be operationalised, while the work to complete the due process might continue, Mr. Chidambaram, addressing the third SAARC Interior/Home Ministers meeting, was confident that its implementation would create a more secure environment in the region. It would also represent a concrete manifestation of the region's determination to address the pressing security concerns it is confronted with.

Mr. Chidambaram echoed the recommendation of the 16th SAARC Summit that given the urgency to advance regional cooperation in areas covered by the convention, its provisions should be operationalised while work to complete the due legal process is on.

In order to improve regional security collaboration, India offered to host a meeting of the high-level group of experts to strengthen the SAARC anti-terrorism mechanism in January next year. He also called upon the SAARC Secretariat to implement observation of October 2 as “SAARC Day of Non-Violence.”

Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik described the joint statement by the SAARC Interior Ministers on combating terrorism as a “good punch” which gave the message that all countries were united in fighting it.

He used the occasion to explain Pakistan's helplessness when incidents of terrorists of Pakistan origin come to light and assured that the government was involved in changing the mindset of the people so that the youth were not attracted to terrorism.

“If some Pakistani, Indian or Bangladeshi leaves the country for the west at the age of three to four and becomes a terrorist, tell me what is the fault of the country? But the Afghan and Pakistani mindset needs to be changed and we are working to keep the young generation away from terrorist outfits. But we need closer cooperation with the international community to tell our position,” he said.

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