South Asian nations are moving towards active cooperation to counter the threat of terrorism that stalks the region by putting in place a comprehensive security network against criminal activity, including terrorist acts.
This will involve exchange of “hard, real time information” against criminals and terrorists, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at the end of the SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting on Friday.
Foreign Ministers of the eight countries in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation also agreed to hasten processing the draft Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and upgrade the existing mechanism for cooperation and exchange of information. This security network will have the potential to meet Indian concerns and thwart potential terror strikes across the region, one of the worst afflicted by terrorist violence.
Sri Lanka, which will host the next Saarc summit in 2008, will host the meeting of legal advisers from Saarc countries for their second meeting in April to “attempt to finalise” the agreement, Mukherjee said, which would provide a functional regional legal framework to deal with trans-border criminal activities.
When asked how this security network would be different from the existing joint anti-terrorist mechanism with Pakistan, Mukherjee said the JATM was a bilateral mechanism, while the security network was a regional concept.
According to senior officials, the anti-terrorism pact would encompass cooperation in making detained persons available to assist investigations, take measures to locate, restrain or seize the proceeds and instruments of crime, and take necessary measures to locate, freeze and confiscate any funds meant for the financing terrorist acts in the region.
All eight countries are “on board” with the move to provide mutual assistance to locate and identify persons and objects associated with crimes, including terrorism, provide information and search and seize terrorists and arms.