*Pak has launched undeclared war: Afghan Prez
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Amritsar, Dec 4: In clear reference to Pakistan, a conference of 40 nations today pitched for dismantling of safe havens for terror groups like LeT and JeM, amid a message by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the world community that “silence and inaction” would “only embolden terrorists and their masters”.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whose country’s proposal for a framework to effectively deal with terrorism could not be adopted by the conference, made a stinging attack on Pakistan, accusing it of launching an “undeclared war” against his country by providing support and safe sanctuaries to terror groups including Taliban.
Terror took the centre stage at the ‘Heart of Asia’ (HoA) conference here which was attended by Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz as also representatives of major powers, including the US and Russia and regional groupings.
While most of the countries pitched for strong action against terrorism, some said India and Pakistan should join hands in helping Afghanistan.
Hosted by India in the backdrop of several cross-border terror attacks emanating from Pakistan, the HOA adopted, after two-day deliberations, the Amritsar Declaration which pressed for dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terror networks.
“We remain concerned by the gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan in particular and the region and the high level of violence caused by the Taliban, terrorist groups including ISIL/ DAISH and its affiliates, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaida, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist fighters,” the Declaration said.
It is for the first time that LeT and JeM have been mentioned in a declaration of the HoA, whose main objective is to discuss efforts to reconstruct and stablise war-torn Afghanistan.
“Acknowledging the support that terrorism derives in our region, we demand an immediate end to all forms of terrorism, as well as all support to it, including financing of terrorism. We recognize that terrorism is the biggest threat to peace, stability and cooperation in our region.
“We strongly call for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, including dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism,” the Declaration said.
In his address at the conference, Modi emphasised the need for a “strong collective will” to defeat terrorism which he described as the “gravest threat to peace and security of Afghanistan and rest of South Asia.
He pressed for “resolute action” against those who “support, train and finance” terrorism and warned that “silence and inaction” would “only embolden terrorists and their masters”.
“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, DASH, LeT and JeM etc,” said Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who headed the Indian delegation, while addressing a press conference at the conclusion of the conference.
Incidentally, HoA’s Islamabad declaration had mentioned Al Qaeda and Daesh. The BRICS Summit held in Goa in October also failed to mention LeT or JeM.
The conference expressed concern over terrorism, “the biggest threat to peace and stability”, and demanded “immediate end to all forms of terrorism and all support, financing, safe havens and sanctuaries to it.”
Besides calling for concerted cooperation to combat the terror groups, the declaration sought early finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
Afghanistan’s proposal for Regional Counter-Terrorism Framework was referred to a group of experts, whose early meeting was favoured for early finalisation of the document.
Afghanistan had pushed hard for its adoption but it could not fructify as many countries had not given their inputs.
Modi said “the growing arc of terrorist violence is posing the gravest threat” to the region.
“As such, support for voices of peace in Afghanistan alone is not enough. It must be backed by resolute action. Not just against forces of terrorism, but also against those who support, shelter, train and finance them,” the Prime Minister said in clear reference to Pakistan.
He said there was a need to “demonstrate strong and collective will to defeat terror networks that cause bloodshed and spread fear.”
Expressing India’s strong commitment to Afghanistan’s transition, Modi said, “On India’s part, our commitment to our brave Afghan brothers and sisters is absolute and unwavering. The welfare of Afghanistan and its people is close to our hearts and minds.”
Many other leaders sought firm and decisive action to deal with the challenge.
Ghani, in a direct attack, said despite Afghanistan’s bilateral and multilateral ties with Pakistan, the “undeclared war” that started in winter of 2014, has intensified after the recent Brussels conference on his country’s transition.
Slamming Islamabad for giving shelter and support to terror groups, the Afghan President quoted a top Taliban commander as saying that ‘unless terror sanctuaries were allowed in Pakistan, the outfit will not last even a month’.
Hitting out at Pakistan for its habit of denying cross- border terror attacks, he said, “An Asian or international mechanism must be put in place, without playing games, to find out who was benefiting from terror, extremism and other illicit activities….
“An Asian or international regime, whatever is acceptable to Pakistan, should be put in place to verify frontier activities and terrorist operations. We do not want blame game, we want verification.”
He also sought setting up of a global fund to combat terrorism, while emphasising that time has come for concrete action against terror infrastructure and those support it.
The Afghan President also made some stinging remarks over Pakistan’s offer of USD 500 million to his country for reconstruction.
“We thank Pakistan for their pledges of USD 500 million for reconstruction of Afghanistan. This fund Mr (Sartaj) Aziz could very well be used to contain extremists because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people,” Ghani said.
In the same breath, he hailed India’s assistance, saying it is “transparent and with no strings attached”. He added that “there are no hidden deals between India and Afghanistan.”
Modi called for sustained and sincere global efforts to bring “durable peace and lasting political stability” to Afghanistan, emphasising that securing its territory and citizens from external threats must be a focus area for the “critical unfinished mission of our time”.
Noting that the results of collective efforts thus far have been hard-won, but mixed, the Prime Minister said, “We have no doubt about the scale of the challenge. But, we are equally determined to succeed.”
He said there was a need to reflect with urgency on what more must be done and what must be avoided in Afghanistan so that its citizens can self-sustain peace and economic growth.
“The question is of resolve and action. And, of putting Afghanistan and its people first. For this, First, an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled process is key. It is the only guarantor of durability of solutions.
“Second, we must demonstrate strong collective will to defeat terror networks that cause bloodshed and spread fear,” he said.
Pitching for improving connectivity between Afghanistan and countries of the region, he said India sees the country as the hub for strengthening links of connectivity between South Asia and Central Asia.
The Prime Minister said India was planning to connect Afghanistan with India through an air transport corridor.
“President Ghani and I have discussed additional measures for deepening our bilateral cooperation. We are making progress in developing plans for utilization of the additional One billion US Dollar earmarked by India for capacity and capability building in Afghanistan.
“It will extend to areas like water management, health, infrastructure, energy and skill development. As India implements its additional commitments, we are open to work with other like-minded partners for the development of Afghanistan,” he said.
Jaitley said 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.
“We recognize that terrorism is the biggest threat to peace, stability and cooperation in our region. We encourage the international community to continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan,” the declaration said.
“We strongly call for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, including dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism,” it added.
In this regard, “we call upon all states to take action against these terrorist entities in accordance with their respective national counter terrorism policies, their international obligations and the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy 2006,” the declaration said. (PTI)
*Pak has launched undeclared war: Afghan Prez