Millennium Post

Cross-border terror core issue for SAARC: Lanka

Asserting a war was not an option between India and Pakistan, Sri Lanka on Wednesday said cross-border terrorism was a core issue on the table for SAARC and the members of eight-nation grouping have to discuss it and its impact before moving forward.

Interacting with media after talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on key regional and bilateral issues including security situation in the region, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also stressed that even if SAARC falls apart, cross-border terrorism will not end so India has to see how to move forward in dealing with it.

"Cross-border terrorism is on the table. SAARC has to look at it and discuss what has happened (cancellation of the SAARC meet). How we are going to handle it...SAARC has to decide on two issues -- cross-border terrorism and areas in which we can work together.

"If we don't do it, there is no future for SAARC," he said while noting that in last few years, nothing has moved in the grouping due to friction between two India and Pakistan.

Last week, India and four other countries had pulled out of the 19th SAARC Summit to be hosted in Islamabad, saying that cross-border terrorism was a concern and in view of that the environment was not conducive to convening the meeting. Asked about his reaction on the possibility of military escalation between India and Pakistan in view of the Uri attack, the Lankan PM said, "I don't think war is an option for anyone" and observed that Modi has taken a lot of steps to diffuse the tension.

On why Sri Lanka was late in its response on holding of SAARC meet in Islamabad and was not categoric in condemning Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism like Bangladesh and Afghanistan, he said Afghanistan and Bangladesh had a problem of their own internal security which was not the case with Sri Lanka, but Colombo did say that the atmosphere was not conducive for the meet. 

Emphasising that Sri Lanka has also been impacted by terrorism, Wickremesinghe said it takes a long time and efforts should be made to ensure that cross-border terrorism was stopped.
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