AMRITSAR: Terrorism was the core issue at the concluding session of the sixth ministerial conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process here on Sunday, where Pakistan-based militant groups such as the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad as well as al-Qaida and the Islamic State were named as grave threats to peace in the South Asian region.
“For the first time, a Heart of Asia declaration expressed concern at the violence caused in Afghanistan and the region by terrorist groups like al-Qaida, Daesh, Lashkar-e-Toiba and JeM etc,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who headed the Indian delegation, said.
The Amritsar declaration said all the participating countries would remain concerned over the gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan in particular and the high level of violence caused by the Taliban, IS and its affiliates, Haqqani Network, Al Qaida, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Pakistani Taliban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist outfits.
“Acknowledging the support that terrorism derives in our region, we demand an immediate end to all forms of terrorism, as well as all support to it, including financing of terrorism... We strongly call for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure the elimination of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism. In this regard, we call upon all states to take action against these terrorist entities in accordance with their respective national counter-terrorism policies, their international obligations and the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy 2006. Furthermore, we encourage early finalisation of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism with consensus,’’ said the statement, signed by all participant countries, including Pakistan.
Afghanistan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai noted after the conference that the “problem of state-sponsored terror” was counterproductive not only for themselves but also for the region as a whole.
Further, the declaration stated, “We commend the government of Afghanistan in successfully pursuing peace talks with Hizb-e-Islami’s Gulbuddin Hekmatyar resulting in the signature of a peace agreement that sets a good precedent for future peace talks with all other armed groups. We reaffirm our recognition made in Islamabad last year that violent extremism facilitates, encourages and justifies acts of terrorism and violence and we undertake to introduce measures to curb the spread of violent extremism and terrorism.
“We recognise the necessity of taking serious measures to address the recruitment of youth to extremist and terrorist networks. We realise that the radicalisation of disaffected elements of the population, especially youth, can only be prevented by effective de-radicalisation and counter-radicalisation strategies involving all the Heart of Asia countries,’’ the declaration stated.