India to work with Sri Lanka on counter-terrorism

India is set to work with Sri Lanka and other Bay of Bengal nations for early ratification of a counter-terrorism convention to step up regional cooperation against terror in the wake of the series of terror strikes in the island nation on Sunday.

With the string of attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday underlining the need for greater cooperation in combating terror, India will give a renewed push within the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) to build a regional architecture to take on the menace, sources in New Delhi told the DH on Monday.

India is likely to work with Sri Lanka and other BIMSTEC nations to ensure that the Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organised Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking comes into force early. The convention was signed by the members of the bloc in 2009, but its ratification was delayed by several members.

Nepal ratified the convention ahead of the BIMSTEC summit in Kathmandu in August 2018. Bhutan is the only country left, however Bhutan has assured India that it would speed up the process.

The BIMSTEC comprises seven littoral and landlocked countries dependent on Bay of Bengal for maritime purposes – India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar and Thailand. Though the bloc came into existence in 1997, it did not gain momentum till 2016, when India decided to push for it after Pakistan blocked several initiatives within the (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) SAARC. The BIMSTEC comprises five of the eight SAARC nations – India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal – apart from Myanmar and Thailand.

New Delhi is pushing for early signing of the proposed BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. If signed and implemented, this will allow measures to locate, freeze and forfeit or confiscate any funds meant for criminal acts in the territory of the members of the bloc.

The SAARC had also adopted a Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters almost 11 years back. But it is yet to come into force as Pakistan did not ratify the 2008 convention. Pakistan also blocked establishment of the SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk and the SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk. Irked by this, India has been pushing for regional cooperation against the menace through the BIMSTEC.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval attended a conclave of the BIMSTEC National Security Chiefs in Bangkok on March 21, where the members agreed to pool their resources to upgrade capacities to deal with terrorism and other security threats.

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