The 15th SAARC Summit

Ever since its inception in 1980, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), a Bangladeshi initiative, has been in the process of making a contribution toward regional integration. The association was formally established on December 8, 1995 by seven founding members. Afghanistan joined the association as its eighth member at the 14 Summit held in April last. SAARC has a unique blend of national interests, religions (Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism), and ideologies. Yet the eight-member association has been striving to advance the cause of regional integration and progress in spite of inherent odds. SAARC wish to reach the level of other successful regional organisations. Emulating the examples of ASEAN or EU is a far cry and long way off. The two-day 15th SAARC Summit was held at the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo on August 2-3. In view of looming global economic meltdown, South Asia has been facing a grimmer picture. The 41-point Colombo Declaration titled Partnership for Growth of Our People called for collective efforts for energy security, climate change, and terrorism, facilitate trade, and increase economic growth as well as collective efforts for food security. The focus on combating terrorism was so heavy in the deliberations at Colombo that other issues were overshadowed. Leaders no doubt identified terrorism as a stumbling block to peace and development in the region. Indian and Afghan-centric opinion on terrorism tried to portray Pakistan as a source of regional terrorism. The story, however, is the other way round. In subcontinent, terrorism, rather state-sponsored terrorism, was the direct consequence of the Indian government aggression being launched against the innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir. So far, as many as over 100,000 innocent Kashmiri people have been buried through a systemic ethnic genocide simply because they wanted to exercise their right to self-determination under a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution adopted on January 17, 1948, only 139 days after the creation of Pakistan as an independent Islamic State out of partition of India on August 14, 1947. Again, the UNSC passed another resolution the following year to ascertain the fate and future of Kashmir through a public fair and free plebiscite under UN auspicious, which never became a reality even the passage of the long 60 years of brutal state-run aggression and terrorism exercised by the Indian government by grossly violating the UN Charter, UNSC resolutions, and peoples' right to self-determination and plebiscite. Indeed, the SAARC's Colombo Declaration is absolutely right in pinpointing that peace and development in the region has been hampered by terrorism. Until terrorism was not uprooted, peace and development cannot be achieved. SAARC must address the root-cause of terrorism in Kashmir. Otherwise, the future of the region would remain bleak. UN also needs to implement its resolution on Kashmir. Unfortunately, Kashmir is one of the few unresolved major disputes pending before the UNSC, which is not only causing state-led terrorism but also a flash point of a possible nuclear war between India and Pakistan, looming large over the past decade after both countries conducted nuclear tests in 1998. The event of August 11, 2008, not to speak of hundreds of thousands of other events, when over 100,000 Kashmiris marchers decided to cross the Line of Control (LoC) in protest of killing of Sheikh Abdul Aziz, a former chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), the other day. Killings, curfews, and indiscrimination against the Kashmiris would never create room for peace and progress particularly between Pakistan and India. The Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Afghan President Hamid Karzai must understand that the root cause of terrorism in the region is the one explained above. Second, Taliban and Afghan dissident groups must be included in the state-building process of Afghanistan. In fact, both Singh and Karzai also must understand that organised and state-run terrorism were institutionalised inside India and Afghanistan so long as their own people were denied basic human rights. Moreover, ethnic terrorism in Sri Lanka and ideological terrorism in Nepal have been originated from inside India for one or the other reason over past several decades. As the national interest of several of these conflict-ridden countries collides with each other, it seems difficult to adopt a comprehensive, collective, and legal approach toward terrorism as mentioned in the Colombo Declaration. The Declaration recognised the linkage between terrorism and drug trafficking. Here the root cause is Afghanistan under the post-Taliban Karzai regime with full control and support of the US-led NATO forces, which eventually once again turned the country into a 'Narco-State'. From this point of view, Afghanistan's inclusion into the SAARC as a full and formal member last year made the body into a largest 'naro-association' and through the wheel of the free-trade, Afghanistan intends to use official channels to 'flourish' narcotics trade in the region and world over, the only source of its national income under the banner of the 'war on terror'. Therefore, denial to the right to ascertain people's political will, India's hegemonic designs particularly in Sri Lanka, and Nepal, and Karzai's Afghan narco-trade have been driving the region towards the menace of terrorism. Hope the new definition of terrorism would incorporate these hard realities in its framework to give a better understanding of the very issue that has not developed any consensus yet. The writer is research fellow (East Asia) at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)

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