Colombo, Feb 7 (NIA) – Sri Lanka has called on the SAARC member states to unite in order to overcome and eliminate terrorism from the region.
Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary, Karunasena Hettiarachchi said that at a time when the very existence of SAARC might be threatened, President Maithripala Sirisena had emphasized that every country of the SAARC should act with unity.
Hettiarachchi was speaking at the panel discussion of ‘SAARC Its Impediments and Way Forward’ jointly organised by the Institute of National Security Studies of Sri Lanka and The High Commission of Pakistan in Sri Lanka.
Hettiarachchi said with South Asia being the poorest region and with the number of people living below the poverty line rising each year, there was a long way before South Asia reached its target of poverty alleviation.
In recent years although some countries had made significant progress in economic growth, their influence in the region was still limited. Therefore it was important for member states of the SAARC to be cooperative and prioritize sustainable development goals and further development agenda, he said.
“During the past 31 years, with the combined efforts of the member states, SAARC has made progress and praiseworthy achievements in strengthening trade and social welfare and in its battle against terrorism,” the Defence Secretary said.
“However in some instances the traditions of mutual respect have been lacking and therefore SAARC as an organisation for regional corporation has not been able to achieve its full potential.”
He added in the past few decades South Asia had witnessed numerous instances of violence and extremism and it had more recently become an epi-center for terrorism.
“Terrorism has now transformed into a global security challenge. The reach of terror outfits such as ISIS has become global and with the ability to cause violence. Point of concern is the radicalization of youth which was evident in the recent terror attacks in Bangladesh. It is disturbing that this phenomenon which began in the Middle East and spread to Europe and the United States is now affecting our region and its youth as well,” Hettiarachchi said.
He added in South Asia – Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan were the first victims of terrorism.
“Given the severity of this issue it is important to continue and strengthen the corporation among the member states of SAARC to combat terrorism,” he reiterated.
Speaking at the event, High Commissioner of Pakistan in Sri Lanka, Maj General (R) Syed Shakeel Hussain said, today, the international array of politics was distorted by scores of unresolved regional and international issues.
He said the two oldest unresolved issues by the UN had impacted international peace at a ‘catastrophic scale’ and unfortunately one of them lied in the South Asian region.
“These issues could have been better handled if the then leaders knew the misery they would bring upon in the world,” he said adding South Asia must now work for the prosperity and justice of the region.
“The way forward is simple. We must accept the existing problems and enter into dialogue with conviction and courage. It is imperative to underscore that delay in the resolution of these historical problems will bring in its wake unprecedented challenges to the safety and the well being of the people of South Asia,” he said.
Pakistan last year was forced to cancel the 19th session of the SAARC Summit which was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November after India and other nations pulled out of the Summit amidst rising tensions between Pakistan and India.
India decided to pull out citing continuous cross-border terrorism by Pakistan.
Pakistan shot back stating that India’s decision to derail the Summit effectively contradicted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own call to fight against poverty in the region.
The Pakistan Foreign Office said that a new set of dates for holding of the Summit in Islamabad will be announced soon, through the Chair of Saarc (Nepal).