IT may be said with certainty that the SAARC leaders assembled in Dhaka on the occasion of their 13th summit meeting have proved their utmost interest to work unitedly to deal with terrorism in the region. The sections of the inaugural speeches of the heads of government of all seven countries seemed exceptionally devoted in tough language and resolve to the imperative of a higher regional effort against terrorism. This anti-terrorism consciousness and the indespensability of working sincerely together to successfully combat the menace and actually taking the initiative to create mechanisms towards these ends, have been among the very positive achievements of this summit.
A SAARC protocol already exists to work in concert against terrorism. The same was only buttressed by the adoption of an additional protocol on the eve of the Dhaka summit that binds the seven-nation organisation, specifically, in different areas to cooperate to tackle terrorism. Under the additional protocol, the SAARC governments will be obliged to exchange information with each other about terrorists and their organisations, attain greater liaison between the law enforcement agencies of their respective countries to take common action against terrorists, provide mutual cooperation to cut off finances to terrorists and to mount harder vigilance against terrorists of any country within their national territories. Thus, a way has been created for terrorist organisations not to feel secure after engaging in terrorist acts in one SAARC country and then crossing over to another.
Terrorism is a phenomenon which has acquired truly international character. It is not restricted to a few countries or some continents. It has spread to nearly all parts of the world and, therefore, South Asians cannot remain oblivious to the very pressing need to take strong enough measures against the scourge. Terrorism can have devastating effects on national economies and societies. It can discourage investments and scare away investors. Economic growth can be severely hampered in countries or regions where terrorism take a hold. South Asia used to be relatively better off in the sense of being not so infested by terrorists or their organisations in the past. But not anymore. Recent incidents of shocking bomb blasts in Dhaka and Delhi were proofs that the agents of terror are gaining grounds in the South Asian countries and they need to be nipped at the bud. Ironically, terrorism is raising its ugly head in the region when individually and collectively the countries of the region appear to be more dedicated to achieve a rapid economic transformation for the better. Thus, the urgency is there for the governments of these countries to take harder steps against terrorism which poses a threat to these inspirational economic developments.
The 13 SAARC summit in Dhaka will be noted for taking tangible steps towards eliminating terrorism from the South Asia region. But the SAARC leaders also need to realise that fighting terrorism in any of manifestations is a delicate exercise and not only physical anti-terrorism curbs are the ones that are needed. The sustainable winning over terrorism requires application of complex policies at the social, political and economic levels aimed to discourage terrorism at the roots. A section of Madrashas have been identified as the breeding grounds of terrorists in some SAARC countries. Hindu chauvinist groups and other organisations that promote very narrow sectarianism and ethnic identities are also flourishing in the region. Governments in the SAARC countries will have to deal in a tougher manner against such intolerant groups to get the maximum benefits in their endeavour against terrorism.