The National Security Advisors of India and Central Asian countries on Tuesday called for collective action to deal with use of terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism, terror financing and radicalisation and asserted that Afghanistan must not become a safe haven for terrorist activities.
A joint communication issued at the end of the India-Central Asia meeting of NSAs said it was agreed that connectivity initiatives should be based on principles of transparency, and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, in what is seen as a tacit endorsement of New Delhi's views on China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
In his address at the meeting, NSA Ajit Doval said connectivity with Central Asian countries remained a key priority for India and that New Delhi stands ready to cooperate, invest and build connectivity in the region.
On threat of terror groups, he said financial support is the "lifeblood" of terrorism and greater priority should be accorded to counter terror financing.
Describing Central Asia as India's "extended neighbourhood", Doval said New Delhi accords "highest priority" to this region, adding Afghanistan is an important issue "concerning all of us".
The meeting hosted by Doval also emphasised the need for respecting Afghanistan's sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and urged non-interference in its internal affairs.
The NSAs of India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan participated in the meeting. Turkmenistan was represented by its ambassador in New Delhi.
The communique said the officials agreed that the expansion of terrorist propaganda, recruitment and fundraising efforts have serious security implications for the region, and therefore, a collective and coordinated response is essential.
"The misuse of new and emerging technologies, arms and drugs trafficking, using terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism, abuse of cyber space to spread disinformation and unmanned aerial systems present new challenges in counterterrorism efforts and call for collective action," it said.
The mentioning of cross border terrorism is seen as a reference to Pakistan's support to various terror groups which have been targeting India.
The meeting also strongly called for the early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism to effectively deal with the menace.
The communique said the NSAs discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and its impact on the security and stability of the region, reiterating strong support for a "peaceful, stable and secure" Afghanistan. The security officials also emphasised that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used for "sheltering, training, planning or financing any terrorist acts.
They also reaffirmed the importance of UNSC Resolution 2593 (2021) that no terrorist organisations including those designated by the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 should be provided sanctuary or allowed to use the territory of Afghanistan.
The NSAs noted the current deteriorating humanitarian situation and the need to jointly act to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan, the communique said.
It said the meeting condemned in the strongest terms all forms of terrorism and underscored the need to work collectively to fight this menace.
The NSAs also called strongly for the early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
The communique said the officials also reiterated that greater connectivity could be a force multiplier for enhancing trade and commerce as well as can ensure closer interactions between India and Central Asian countries.
"They agreed that connectivity initiatives should be based on the principles of transparency, broad participation, local priorities. financial sustainability and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries," it said in remarks seen as an oblique reference to China's Belt and Road Initiative.
Doval hosted the conclave with a focus on evolving a common framework to deal with challenges of terrorism in the region including Afghanistan and ways to bolster overall security cooperation in sync with a decision taken at the first India-Central Asia summit in January.
In his brief address, Doval largely focused on the challenge of terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan and the importance of regional connectivity projects.
"Financing of terrorism is its lifeblood and countering terror financing should be an equal priority for all of us," he said, amid India's growing concern over use of Afghan soil for terrorist activities including by Pakistan-origin terror groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
"We should also call on all UN members to fulfil obligations enshrined in relevant counter-terror conventions and protocols and refrain from providing any form of support to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts," he said.
Doval also said that connectivity initiatives should be consultative, transparent and participatory.
"While expanding connectivity, it is important to ensure that connectivity initiatives are consultative, transparent and participatory, with respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries," he said, seen as an oblique reference to China's BRI.
Doval also referred to the first India-Central Asia virtual summit in January that was hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.