Combating terrorism was at the centre-stage of Heart of Asia (HoA) conference held at Amritsar, India. The conference called for an immediate elimination of terrorism to help the war-ravaged country in its political and economic transition. The conference also sent a clear message to Pakistan, holding terror and violent extremism as the biggest threat to peace. The member nations even condemned terror and vowed to fight state sponsored terrorism of Pakistan.

After the two-day deliberations, attended by 44 countries including major regional and global powers and blocs, HoA strongly worded terror declaration named Pakistan terror groups – JeM, LeT and Haqqani – as the fountain heads of terror. The Amritsar Declaration called for dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terror networks.  The platform also aimed to help Afghanistan in its transition. Importantly, the conference was held in the backdrop of number of cross-border terror attacks on India and elsewhere. It expressed serious concern over gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan and in several other parts of the region, holding that united efforts are required to contain various Islamic terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaida, ISIS, etc.

Addressing a press conference, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who headed the Indian delegation, said the declaration recognises terrorism as the biggest threat to peace and stability and demands immediate end to all forms of terrorism and all support, financing, safe havens and sanctuaries to it.  “For the first time, a Heart of Asia Declaration expressed concern at the violence caused in Afghanistan and the region by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Daesh, LeT and JeM etc,” Jaitley said. Jaitley salso added that the three major issues deliberated upon at the conference were countering terrorism to create stability and security in Afghanistan, providing it with connectivity and ensure the war-ravaged country’s development. The declaration read, “We remain concerned by high level of violence in Afghan caused by Taliban, terrorist groups including ISIL/DAISHand its affiliates Let, JeM, etc”. . The Amritsar Declaration further read, ”We recognize the necessity of taking serious measures to address recruitment of youth to extremist &terrorist networks. We realise radicalisation of youth can only be prevented by effective de-radicalisation strategies involving all Heart of Asia countries”.

Apart from calling for concerted cooperation to combat the terror groups, the declaration sought early finalisation of the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. It also favoured an early meeting of experts to discuss a draft Regional Counter-Terrorism Framework, recently prepared by Afghanistan, for its early finalization.

The Afghan President Ashraf Ghani slammed Pakistan for providing support and safe sanctuaries to terror groups including Taliban, accusing it of engaging in an ‘undeclared war’ while many other leaders sought firm and decisive action to deal with the challenge.

by Ashwani Srivastava

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