Saturday, November 14, 2009

UN Stepping Up on Terrorism

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14: The United Nations launched a programme this week to get India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other South Asian nations to join forces to fight terrorism.

In a first step to building regional cooperation, the UN brought police and prosecutors from eight countries in South Asia together to talk about problems in fighting terrorism.

Mike Smith, the UN official who organised the three-day workshop in Bangladesh, said on Friday it didn’t get into the political issues that divide the countries and prevent joint efforts to tackle acts of terrorism that often cross borders.

Instead, he said, police and prosecutors from the eight countries talked about common problems, “getting into how their professional operational activities could be improved ... if they were able to have more frequent contacts with each other.”

The South Asian region, “probably more than just about any other in the world, has suffered grievously from terrorism over a very long period,” he said, citing multiple terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.

But Mr Smith said regional cooperation to fight terrorism had been very limited so the UN decided to invite senior police and prosecution officials from eight South Asian nations — India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives — to the workshop to compare how they work and “to start building habits of cooperation between the countries.”

“After three days, we were pretty gratified to see the extent to which these professionals were reacting with each other in a very positive way and a very professional way –—and in a way that they all thought they got something out of it,” he told a news conference.

Did that mean that Indian and Pakistani police and prosecutors would start calling their counterparts?

“They did actually talk quite a lot,” Mr Smith said. “They’ve got a lot in common and a lot of the discussion was really bringing out the points they have in common.”

But he cautioned: “I’m certainly not expecting that next week they’ll be picking up the phone and talking to each other. That’s not going to happen like that.”

What the UN is hoping, he said, was that a follow-up workshop in the first half of 2010, which Sri Lanka offered to host because it was “so enthused,” would start a process that would gradually build “into something that becomes just a regular event.”

Source: Pakistan Dawn

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