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Pak cornered at Heart of Asia meet on terror

"Coming down heavily on Pakistan for its support to terror groups operating from its soil including Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the just concluded Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar has demanded concerted regional and international cooperation to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as well as dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the region as also disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terror networks.Specific mention of LeT and JeM and Haqqani network along with other groups indulging in heightened  violence in Afghanistan and the region is a boost for India considering that these Pakistan-based terror outfits were not named in the BRICKS Goa declaration. Some 40 countries including Pakistan, represented by Sartaj Aziz, advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on foreign affairs participated in the two-day conference, which concluded on Sunday.Without naming Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke strongly about the need to demonstrate strong collective will to defeat terrorism. He said that silence and inaction against terrorism in Afghanistan and the Southeast Asian region will only embolden terrorists and their masters.Resolute action must be taken not just against forces of terrorism but also against those who support, shelter and finance them, he said.Reflecting Modi’s assertion, Afghan President Ashraf Ghaniunambiguously named Pakistan for promoting terrorism and said no amount of financial assistance can help stabilise the war-ravaged nation if ""support to terrorists"" from the neighbouring country continued. Ghani referred to USD 500 million pledged by Pakistan for reconstruction of Afghanistan and bluntly told Aziz that this money can “very well be used for containing extremism because without peace, any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people.”Ghani also said military operations in Pakistan have brought about selective displacement of terrorists networks.Maintaining that state-sponsored sanctuaries exist in Pakistan, he, quoting a Taliban leader said, “ as Mr Kakazada (Mullah Rahmatullah Kakazada), one of the key figures in the Taliban movement, recently said, if they did not have sanctuary in Pakistan, they would not last a month.”He also said that about 30 terrorist groups, as named by the UN, are trying to establish their base in Afghanistan and there was a need to identify cross-border terrorism and a fund to combat the scourge.Describing terrorism as the biggest threat to peace, stability and cooperation in the region the conference in its declaration pressed for dismantling terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region.It called upon all states to take action against these terrorist entities in accordance with their respective national counter-terrorism policies and UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy 2006.In his statement, India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley — who led the Indian delegation in the absence of ailing external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj — said, “For the first time, a Heart of Asia Declaration expressed concern at the violence caused in Afghanistan and the region by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Daesh, LeT and JeM, etc.” Observers feel the declaration is a clear message to Pakistan — without naming it — that it should dismantle the safe havens of terrorism on its soil.The Amritsar Declaration said, “We remain concerned by the gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan in particular and the region and the high level of violence caused by the Taliban, terrorist groups including ISIL/ DAESH and its affiliates, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, LeT, JeM, TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist fighters. Acknowledging the support that terrorism derives in our region, we demand an immediate end to all forms of terrorism, as well as all support to it, including financing of terrorism. We recognise that terrorism is the biggest threat to peace, stability and cooperation in our region. We encourage the international community to continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan. We strongly call for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, including dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism.”“We welcome and support Afghanistan’s initiative in taking the lead in exploring a regional counter-terror strategy, in accordance with the established principles of the UN charter, which we agreed was necessary when we last met in Islamabad in December 2015. We note the progress that has been made since the last Ministerial with an Ambassadorial meeting of the CT-CBM participating countries at which a draft framework strategy was shared by Afghanistan for further consideration and development. We call for convening an early meeting of experts to discuss the draft framework strategy with the view to its finalisation for consideration by senior security officials,” it said.Mr Jaitley said, the three big issues of the conference were—-Countering terrorism to create stability and security in Afghanistan, Providing Afghanistan connectivity to strengthen economic activities, and Development, which is essential for the progress of Afghanistan.The participating countries included——apart from Afghanistan and host India——Azerbaijan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Nations. The Conference also saw the presence and participation of guest countries Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia and Uzbekistan. The other supporting countries and international and regional organisations included Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Poland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Collective Security Treaty Organisations (CSTO), Economic Cooperation Organisations (ECO), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).(The writer is a Delhi-based freelance journalist. He has had a long stint in various editorial capacities, including West Asia correspondent, for the PTI news agency.) "

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