No country can escape responsibility by blaming non-state actors for terror activities: India

In a veiled attack on Pakistan, India on Saturday said no country could escape its responsibility by blaming non-state actors for terrorist activities emanating from its soil.

“As long as the territory of a country is used by non-state actors to prepare for terror attacks, that country owes a legal and moral responsibility to its neighbours and to the world to suppress those non-state actors and bring them to justice,” Home Minister P Chidambaram said.

“Sometimes, I think the distinction between state actors and non-state actors is misplaced and intended to misdirect our efforts to deal with terrorist groups at the very source — the recruitment centres, the training camps and their safe havens and sanctuaries,” he said addressing the 4th meeting of the SAARC Interior/ Home Ministers here.

Describing terrorism as the biggest existentialist challenge in South Asia, Mr. Chidambaram said the menace could be best tackled through effective cooperation among the SAARC nations.

The Minister emphasised the need for examining the existing mechanisms for countering terrorism, drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings, arms smuggling and counterfeiting, including organised production and distribution of fake Indian currency notes.

Troubled region

Mr. Chidambaram said South Asia was perhaps the most troubled and vulnerable region in the world as the vast majority of terrorist incidents this year — as well as last year — occurred there.

“Terrorist groups in this region have flourished because of the support they have found from state and non-state actors.”

The Minister said terrorism was the most significant existential challenge to peace and security in South Asia and it was the single largest hindrance to socio-economic development in the region.

“The lives and safety of our people continue to remain at significant risk from targeted, deliberate and cowardly terrorist outrages,” he said.

The Minister expressed India's continuing commitment to discharge its responsibilities in the SAARC in an effective manner, saying it would do its best to ensure that the grouping evolved into a vibrant regional economic organisation.

He said:

“Here, I would like to recall the fruitful meeting that we had during the Conference of the Interior/Home Ministers of SAARC countries in Islamabad in June 2010 where we last met. We agreed, inter alia, on the broad contours of cooperation to combat terrorism.

“I am sure that all of us are equally committed to our common endeavour in eliminating the menace of terrorism.”

The Minister said the process of taking forward a proactive agenda on cooperation in our neighbourhood was integrally connected with the shared ability to cooperate in eliminating the threats posed by terrorists, drug traffickers, arms smugglers and others whose activities affect the safety and security of our people.

Greater connectivity

“On the positive side, I may note that our leaders have agreed on the need for greater regional connectivity, better transport infrastructure, enhanced flow of material and goods, effective border control regimes, and taking further steps to facilitate integration,” Mr. Chidambaram said.

He said the threat of terrorism, which was a common challenge in the region, could be tackled only with the fullest cooperation amongst the member-nations of the SAARC.

“We have no alternative but to deploy the best instruments and resources at our disposal in our fight against terrorism. What we need now is to be more proactive in implementing our resolutions in letter and in spirit,” he said.

For instance, much more could be done by sharing information on a real-time basis on terrorism and all forms of organised criminal activity.

Referring to the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, signed nearly three years ago at the 15th Summit of the grouping, Mr. Chidambaram said that if the SAARC acted on the provisions of the Convention, it would facilitate evidence-sharing and the seizure and confiscation of criminal and terrorist funds.

“Cooperation in our region should lead us to enhancing our cooperation on international fora as well. The proposed U.N. Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism is long overdue. As a region with the highest incidence of terror, we need to press for such a Convention soon.”

“For our part, insofar as sharing information and capacity is concerned, India is committed to doing so in a reciprocal manner. We remain open to offering support and cooperation through training programmes in areas of criminal investigation, narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, cyber crime, economic offences and bank fraud cases,” he said.

Meet in New Delhi

The Home Minister announced that New Delhi would host the ‘Meeting of SAARC Eminent Experts to Strengthen Anti-Terrorism Mechanism' in October 2011