In a thinly-veiled attack on Islamabad that had shrugged off blame for 26/11 Mumbai attacks by terrorist groups operating on its soil, home minister P Chidambaram on Saturday said governments could not get away by pointing fingers at non-state actors and owed it to their neighbours to suppress the groups and bring them to justice.
The home minister also emphasised that terrorist groups had flourished in South Asia — the world's "most troubled and vulnerable" region"— due to support from state actors as well.
"Sometimes, I think that 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.
Chidambaram was speaking at the 4th meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) interior/ home Ministers in Bhutan's capital, Thimpu.
But a larger part of his message was aimed at building pressure on Islamabad where most serious threats to India's security have incubated under patronage of state agencies. India believes the 26/11 attacks too were planned and executed in Pakistan.
"If I may speak frankly, let me say that no state and no government can escape responsibility by pointing to non-state actors," Chidambaram said.
"As long as the territory of a country is used by non-State actors to prepare for terrorist 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," he said.
Describing terrorism as the biggest existentialist challenge in South Asia, Chidambaram said the menace could be best tackled through effective cooperation among the Saarc nations.
"We have no alternative but to deploy the best instruments and resources at our disposal in our fight against terrorism," he said, describing terrorism as the "most significant existential challenge to peace" and the "single largest hindrance to socio-economic development".
"Where we have signed agreements, we must ratify them soon. Where we have ratified Agreements, we need to enact enabling legislation to give effect to those Agreements. And where we have legislation in place, we need to apply their provisions to make regional cooperation in security matters substantive and meaningful."