India seeks terror-free Asia

Astana: Pitching for a terror-free Asia, India on Wednesday said safe havens and terror sanctuaries that "poison" the region should be dismantled, an apparent reference to Pakistan.

Addressing the 11th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) here in Kazakhstan, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said that only a meaningful approach could eliminate the menace of terrorism and expressed India`s interest in engaging in a greater manner with the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO in this context.

"Terrorism and extremism show no respect for boundaries. India is only too familiar with this evil, which not just wantonly claims human lives, but threatens the social and economic progress of our societies," Krishna told the Summit of the six-nation grouping comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

He said "India would like to see the SCO zone emerge as a terror-free zone, free of safe havens and sanctuaries for terrorists and free of infrastructure of terrorism that poisons our common region."

Although he did not name Pakistan, he was clearly referring to the country which has become an epicentre for global terrorism and a source of terrorism in India.

"Regional counter-terrorism cooperation can indeed play an important role in supporting action taken by individual countries.

"We see the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) as an important regional answer to the terrorism challenge. We look forward to India`s greater engagement with RATS and in counter-terrorism exercises in the region," Krishna said.

Krishna said India is impressed that the SCO has taken several significant initiatives in recent years, especially in two major areas — combating terrorism and promotion of economic cooperation in the region.

"SCO`s emphasis on the need for all countries to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, extremism and narcotics is the only meaningful approach to this global menace that threatens us all equally," he said.

The Minister said India attaches great importance to the association with the SCO and values the consistent and mature contribution made by the organisation to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

India would be happy to play a larger and deeper role in the SCO when the rules and criteria for full membership are clear, Krishna said.

He said SCO has played a constructive and forward-looking role in contributing towards peace in Afghanistan.

"SCO`s discussions on Afghanistan and particularly the recent initiatives by Russia, have all added to our understanding of the difficult situation there and helped us examine regional solutions," Krishna said.

India, on its part, is doing its best for reconstruction of Afghanistan to improve the social and economic lives of the friendly people of the war-torn nation who have been suffering from conflict for the last almost three decades, he said.

"We are helping our Afghan friends even at the cost of the lives of our people. India stands committed to the prosperity of the Afghan people and our Prime Minister was in Afghanistan recently to reaffirm India`s unwavering commitment to this cause.

"Afghanistan has the promise of becoming a geo-strategic bridge between Central Asia and South Asia as well as a trade and transit hub with modern infrastructure," Krishna said.