Home Ministers from SAARC nations on Saturday discussed ways to strengthen police cooperation and other means to combat terrorism that has afflicted the region. The SAARC Interior Ministers' conference, attended by Home Minister P Chidambaram, also discussed proposals like maritime security and anti-piracy operations under the SAARC charter. The maritime security proposal has been mooted by Sri Lanka and Maldives.
The conference also discussed 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. The police networking was on top of the agenda at the meeting. 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. India wants visible cooperation as it believes that if any country is serious about fighting terrorism, its cooperation should be visible in terms of information-sharing and other aspects.
The conference also discussed 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 scourge. The meeting was also attended by Home Ministers of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives. At the meeting, Chidambaram is 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. The agreement was reached at the SAARC Summit in Colombo in 2008. PTI