THE forthcoming two-day summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in the capital city will have the economic and social issues as the main agenda of discussion. Understandably, trade, investment and poverty alleviation will figure prominently among the economic and social issues to come within the purview of the summiteers' discussion. But there are yet other areas of current global as well as regional concern that will also occupy the centre stage in the upcoming summit of the regional leaders of South Asia. Dealing with terrorism is one such issue of prime concern.
The extraordinary security measures taken in the city on the eve of the 13th SAARC summit do themselves speak volumes for the situation the country is going through at the moment. The ringleaders of the activists of the extremist religious outfit who have been issuing one threat after another to the government since they first raised their ugly heads in the country are still at large. Secret dens of those terrorists and their stockpiles of bombs and other weapons are being unearthed about every other day. Delhi, the capital of the biggest member of the SAARC community, is yet to recover fully from the shock of the latest terrorist attack on it. And terrorism in one form or another is no stranger either to the other countries in South Asia that would be represented in the summit. But notwithstanding such threats from the terrorists of every description, life cannot be allowed to come to a standstill. So, the leaders of the South Asian nations have accepted the challenge thrown by the terrorists and decided to square up to the situation admirably.
The unchanged schedule of the 13th SAARC is one instance of the SAARC leadership's determination to attend the summit in spite of the terrorist threat all over South Asia in general. The incumbent government of Bangladesh, too, has a high stake in holding the summit smoothly and thereby demonstrating to the world at large that the people of Bangladesh can never be cowed into submission by the terrorists. Moreover, successful holding of the summit will be an acid test for the regional leaders to prove that they are really serious and sincere about facing the challenge of terrorism together. For, the demonstration of solidarity of the SAARC nations to fight terrorism regionally has become a moral imperative on the part of the government leaders and the people of the subcontinent at the moment. This is more so now, if only for the fact that sometimes the victim of terrorism is often blamed for harbouring the evil rather than shown sympathy for the outrage committed to it by the perpetrators of the crime. Such branding of a nation and its people with the evil of terrorism itself proves to be counterproductive when it comes to fighting terrorism on a trans-national level. Against this backdrop of terrorist threats at the national, regional and global levels, no country, let alone Bangladesh, can or should think of combating the menace unilaterally.
Obviously, the ways to combat terrorism regionally is going to be a major agenda of the 13th summit of the seven-nation regional forum. But while deciding on taking a collective stand against terrorism on a regional level, the leaders of the SAARC nations would do well not to consider the issue merely as one of the other issues on the agenda to feature in the talks at the highest political level. It is time all the member-states of the SAARC hammered out a foolproof plan of action to cooperate meaningfully with one other whenever any crisis involving terrorism arises in any country of the region.