In a significant development, India and 10 ASEAN countries on Thursday for the first time mentioned “cross-border movement of terrorists” and made a commitment to counter the challenge through “close cooperation”. They not only agreed on a comprehensive approach to counter “foreign terrorist fighters”, but also supported efforts to target terrorist groups and sanctuaries.
This assumes significance as India has always accused Pakistan of “cross-border terrorism”, and many ASEAN countries have, in the past few years, been victims of terrorist attacks in Indonesia and Thailand among others. The language formulation in the Delhi declaration is a marked change from the 2012 Vision statement, where there was no explicit mention of terrorism and only had a commitment to foster greater security cooperation.
The Delhi declaration issued on Thursday said the leaders reiterated their commitment to “promote comprehensive approach to combat terrorism through close cooperation by disrupting and countering terrorists, terrorist groups and networks, including by countering cross- border movement of terrorists and foreign terrorist fighters and misuse of Internet, including social media, by terror entities; strengthen cooperation to stop terrorism financing efforts, and prevent recruitment of members of terrorist groups; support efforts in targeting terrorist groups and sanctuaries; and take further urgent measures to counter and prevent the spread of terrorism, while stressing that there can be no justification for acts of terror on any grounds whatsoever.”
“Combating terror financing jointly is yet another important area where we could work collectively,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the visiting ASEAN leaders at the plenary session on Thursday. According to the Delhi declaration, they also decided to work together with the international community to ensure “compliance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding counter-terrorism”, and to note efforts on the negotiations of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) at the United Nations.
For India, this paragraph emboldens Delhi’s efforts to list Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, and pressure Pakistan to take action against Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa founder Hafiz Saeed. The Delhi declaration also said that they would “deepen cooperation in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, violent extremism and radicalisation through information sharing, law enforcement cooperation and capacity building under the existing ASEAN-led mechanisms”.
In addition, the statement said they would strengthen cooperation to combat other transnational crimes, including people smuggling, trafficking in persons, illicit drug trafficking, cybercrime, and piracy and armed robbery against ships.
In December 2012, when the India-ASEAN commemorative statement took place to celebrate 20th year of partnership, the vision statement had said, “We are committed to fostering greater security cooperation and information sharing in the form of regular and high-level security dialogues to further address traditional and non-traditional security challenges, including transnational crimes, and strengthening the effective implementation of the ASEAN-India Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism.”