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SAARC to fight terror, review observers' status

world Updated: Nov 12, 2011 00:37 IST
Jayanth Jacob

The South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAARC) has decided to undertake a comprehensive review of all matters relating to observers, a move backed by New Delhi to pre-empt countries outside the region from using the regional body to play power games.

The eight member SAARC grouping has nine observers including the United States, China, European Union and Iran.

As reported first by HT, New Delhi wanted SAARC Summit to come up with clear guidelines for the terms of engagement with the observers.

A three-year moratorium on adding more observers to the grouping ended this year. Turkey, which has active support of Pakistan, and Commonwealth secretariat are the forerunners for getting the observer status.

The Addu declaration says it will "undertake a comprehensive review of all matters relating to SAARCs's engagement with observers, including the question of dialogue partnership, before the next Session of the Council of Ministers in 2012."

The Addu declaration adopted at the end of the summit also pitched for early conclusion of the proposed UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism — an idea India had put on the table in 1996 to root out terror and its linkages with narcotic drugs and small arms.

It also called for coordinated efforts to address the issue of terrorism and completing the process to ratify the SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.

India has bilateral mutual legal assistance treaties with several countries, but an umbrella arrangement under the SAARC rubric is expected to give a push to regional cooperation in tackling crime. Especially crimes that have trans-national characters and such a convention is something India has been pushing for some time now.