In win for India, BIMSTEC calls for crackdown on terror
Though no country was named as a supporter of cross-border terrorism, the declaration buttressed New Delhi’s stance on the threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
The Bimstec summit concluded here on Friday with a call to crack down on the cross-border movement of terrorists as part of measures to fight extremism, and an emphasis on greater connectivity in a region that accounts for 22% of the world’s population.
The Kathmandu Declaration by the leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) focused a great deal on counter-terror measures, with the word “terrorism” being mentioned 22 times in the document.
Though no country was named as a supporter of cross-border terrorism, the declaration buttressed New Delhi’s stance on the threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan, an issue that came in the way of Islamabad hosting the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit in 2016.
The declaration reiterated the strong commitment of the seven Bimstec members “to combat terrorism and call upon all countries to devise a comprehensive approach in this regard, which should include preventing financing of terrorists and terrorist actions from territories under their control, blocking recruitment and cross-border movement of terrorists, countering radicalisation, countering misuse of the internet for purposes of terrorism and dismantling terrorist safe havens”.
The Bimstec leaders reiterated “their position that terrorism continues to pose a serious threat to peace and stability in our region” and reaffirmed their “strong commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”.
They also stressed the importance of multi-dimensional connectivity, which promotes synergy “among connectivity frameworks in our region, as a key enabler to economic integration for shared prosperity”. They called for implementing a connectivity master plan for the region that has a combined GDP of $2.8 trillion but negligible intra-grouping trade.
The leaders directed officials to speed up efforts to conclude the Bimstec Coastal Shipping Agreement and Bimstec Motor Vehicle Agreement as quickly as possible.
For India, the mention of cross-border terrorism is a euphemism for Pakistan allowing its territory for terror activities directed against India.
“We are for a comprehensive approach for fighting terrorism and condemn terrorism in all its manifestations. We have called for blocking cross-border terrorism and dismantling of terrorist infrastructure, wherever they exist,” Nepal’s foreign minister, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, said after the summit.
Bimstec members such as Bhutan, Bangladesh and India had pulled out of the Saarc summit in 2016 over the issue of terrorism. India had then blamed “cross-border terror attacks” for creating an environment that was “not conducive” to the meeting of Saarc leaders.
“A stunted SAARC is giving impetus to Bimstec,” said strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellany.
“Legal assistance and frameworks are crucial instruments in combating terrorism and trans-national crimes. In this context, the Bimstec convention on mutual legal assistance may be finalised soon,” said Sachin Chaturvedi, who heads the New-Delhi based think tank, Research and Information System for Developing Countries.
Considering that Bimstec has hosted only four summits since it was founded in 1997, the leaders decided to streamline and strengthen the working of the grouping. The grouping is also looking at setting up a Bimstec Development Fund with voluntary contributions from member states. The fund will be used for research, planning and financing of projects, programmes and other activities of Bimstec centres and entities as agreed on by member states, the declaration said.
Sri Lanka is the next chair of the grouping. On the sidelines of the summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held meetings on Friday with his Nepalese counterpart, KP Sharma Oli, Myanmar President, Win Myint, Thailand Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-Ocha, and the chief adviser of Bhutan’s interim government, Dasho Tshering Wangchuk.