Cross-border terrorism was an issue that Saarc countries needed to address but war was not an option, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said here on Wednesday, warning that the grouping faced a bleak future if a solution was not found.
The Lankan PM complimented his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for his “restraint” and his handling of situation after the Uri attack but said “even if the Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) falls apart, cross-border terror might continue”.
“Cross-border terrorism is on the table. Saarc has to look at it and discuss what has happened (cancellation of the Saarc meet). How we are going to handle it...,” said Wickremesinghe, who arrived in the city on Tuesday for a three-day visit.
“Saarc has to decide on two issues — cross-border terrorism and areas in which we can work together… If we don’t do it, there is no future for Saarc.”
The statement comes in less than a week of Pakistan putting off a Saarc summit it was to host in November after India and four other countries pulled out.
India’s decision came after suspected Pakistani militants struck an army camp in Uri, killing 19 soldiers. Sri Lanka opted out, saying atmosphere was not conductive for a summit.
Wickremesinghe, the first Saarc leader to address the media in the Capital after India’s September 29 “surgical strikes” on militant launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), avoided comments on the cross-LoC raid.
“I may not be giving you the answers you are looking for. But you will understand in the long run what I am saying now,” the Lankan PM told mediapersons as faced a volley of questions over the “surgical strikes”.
Wickramasinghe said he agreed with Modi that cross-border terrorism had to end. Member countries would have to find ways to fight it and move forward.