Accessibility links

Terrorism to Figure Big at SAARC Summit


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to call for better efforts to combat terrorism and instability during a summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC. Regional foreign ministers have just wrapped up preparatory meetings for Saturday's summit in Dhaka.

Indian officials say a clear message must go out from the SAARC summit that there is "zero tolerance" for terrorism. They say they expect the seven South Asian leaders to come up with a series of steps to collectively combat any future security threat.

India has long suffered from attacks by Islamic militants, who oppose Indian rule in the mostly Muslim region of Kashmir. Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan, has sparked two wars and remains the biggest problem in bilateral relations.

Just last month, the Indian capital was rocked by three bombings that killed nearly 60 people, in what appears to be the work of Kashmiri Islamic militants.

Despite the friction, Pakistan and India are making an effort to work together to tackle terrorism along their borders.

Meanwhile, it appears to be cropping up in new places in the region, namely Bangladesh. In August, violent extremists carried out more than 200 bombings, in coordinated attacks throughout the country.

Bharat Karnad is with the independent New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research. With international scrutiny on Kashmir, he says, terror groups may be looking for a new place to operate.

"Most of these activities, these clandestine and nefarious activities, have moved over to Bangladesh," he said. "And Bangladesh has now become a major Islamic fundamentalist concern for everybody, not just in India, but in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and so on."

There is also Nepal, where the government is fighting a long-running conflict against Maoist insurgents, which has killed thousands in the past eight years.

In addition to security concerns, South Asian leaders also hope to make progress on SAFTA, the South Asia Free Trade Agreement, to work out new ways to alleviate poverty and discuss the creation of a regional disaster management center. South Asia has been devastated this past year by October's earthquake in Kashmir and an Indian Ocean tsunami last December. Tens of thousands of people died, and millions have been left homeless.

XS
SM
MD
LG