Strengthening of police cooperation will be high on agenda of the upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Home Ministers' conference during which India is expected to press for visible collaboration by member countries in the fight against terrorism.
Home Minister P Chidambaram, who will represent India, is also expected to press for early ratification by Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal of the SAARC Mutual Legal Assistance agreement on criminal matters to ensure that terrorism is combated effectively. India is expected to underscore that if any country is serious about fighting terrorism, its cooperation should be visible in terms of information-sharing and other aspects,sources told PTI.
The conference in Islamabad on June 26 will also discuss ways to strengthen the Colombo-based SAARC Terror Offences Monitoring Desk and Drug Offences Monitoring Desk, which are the nodal agencies for fight against these scourges, they said. A new proposal for maritime security and anti-piracy under the SAARC format will also be discussed. The proposal has been mooted by Sri Lanka and Maldives.
The main issue on the agenda will be strengthening of cooperation among police forces of the eight member countries for dealing effectively against terrorism. The conference will deliberate on ways to implement police networking and exchange of information, sources said. A mechanism for police cooperation is already in place for the last two years but it has not really taken off, the sources said, adding India will underscore the need for making it an effective tool to fight the menace of terrorism afflicting South Asia. The Mutual Legal Assistance agreement, reached at the SAARC Summit in Colombo in 2008, has also not been ratified by Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal and India is expected to press them to do so quickly.
The conference will also discuss issues related to SAARC visas in the backdrop of proposals for expanding this category of travel documents. At present MPs, judges, 100 identified business leaders, sports persons and 150 journalists are availing SAARC Visa facility. This will be reviewed at the upcoming conference. India is open to the idea of liberalisation of visas to enable more people to people contacts but underlines the need to keep security interests in mind. SAARC comprises India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.