South Asian region faces serious security situation: PC

Ministers from SAARC nations have discussed ways to combat terrorism that has afflicted the region.

Islamabad: Warning that the South Asian region is faced with a "serious" security situation, India on Saturday sought fullest cooperation among SAARC countries in sharing information on potential terrorists and planned acts of terrorism to create a more secure environment.

"The increasing threat of terrorism poses a major challenge to the maintenance of peace and security and adversely affects economic development in our region," Home Minister P Chidambaram said while addressing the SAARC Home Ministers` Conference here.

"We can all undoubtedly agree that the South Asian region is faced with a serious security situation," he told the meeting being attended by the ministers from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives, besides India and Pakistan.

Chidambaram made it clear that it was only with the "fullest cooperation among our countries that we will be in position to effectively tackle the grave threat of terrorism in our region”.

He also made a strong pitch for examining whether the existing conventions have been effective.

"We also need to cooperate each other in sharing information on potential terrorists and planned acts of terrorism, and all other forms of criminal activities in order to create more secure environment," he said.

"It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the instruments and the resources at our disposal are put to the best possible use in our fight against terrorism," he added.

Chidambaram commended his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik for his opening remarks in which the latter highlighted the threat of terrorism and especially the fallout of 9/11 attacks in New York and the 26/11 strikes in Mumbai.

Both Chidambaram and Malik had meetings yesterday which was dominated by the issue of terrorism and action against the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attacks.

Interior/Home ministers of SAARC countries have a major responsibility in ensuring that regional cooperation in meeting the challenges posed by terrorism, arms smuggling, face currency, drug and human trafficking would create an environment conducive to greater connectivity, accelerated progress and development in the region, Chidambaram said.

He also urged the meeting to begin the implementation of SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters signed in August 2008 and called for its ratification.

The convention, he said, will facilitate evidence sharing among member states and the seizure and confiscation of funds meant for criminal and terrorist activities.

"Its implementation will not only contribute to the creation of a more secure environment in the region, it would also represent a concrete manifestation of the region`s determination to address the common and pressing security concerns before it," Chidambaram said.

He also pressed for the early conclusion of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

At the conference, Chidambaram also announced that India would be hosting a meeting of High Level Group of Eminent Experts to Strengthen SAARC Anti-Terrorism Mechanism as recommended by the grouping.

The meeting is proposed to be held in New Delhi in January 2011.

Chidambaram said India is committed to discharging its responsibilities within SAARC in a non-reciprocal manner and will continue to offer assistance to member states in the areas of criminal investigation, narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, cyber crime, economic offences and bank fraud cases.

"I have no doubt that cooperative action among member states in all areas of common interests and concern will be critical in supporting our individual and collective actions intended to provide a more secure and peaceful environment to the people of our countries and the region," he added.