India puts Saarc treaty on crime on fast track (Lead)

July 24th, 2008 - 6:47 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 24 (IANS) India Thursday said the recent blasts at the Indian mission in Kabul showed the “vulnerability” of the region to terrorism. It decided to fast-track a convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters among the Saarc countries at the group’s 15th summit in Colombo early next month. The union cabinet also approved a “brief for negotiation” to finalise the text of the Saarc convention during the 35th standing committee meeting of the grouping July 29-30 and in the special session of the legal advisers on July 7 in the run-up to the summit.

The cabinet gave its approval to the external affairs ministry to negotiate and finalise the text of the convention and to sign the convention during the Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit in Colombo, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters here after a cabinet meeting which was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The signing of the convention, he said, will be subject to successful finalisation and also to the ratification of the convention later.

“While development projects bring benefits to those that most require it, the Saarc governments have a collective responsibility to ensure that growth and development within the region take place in a crime-free atmosphere where people feel secure,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at a conference on Deepening South Asian Economic Integration.

“The recent bomb blasts in Kabul that targeted our embassy emphasises how vulnerable South Asia continues to be to terrorism,” he said.

“This will enable us to implement actions against such crimes in the neighbourhood with regional cooperation,” Mukherjee said while expressing confidence that the treaty would be finalised at the forthcoming SAARC summit.

The convention would provide a broad framework for Saarc member states to mutually cooperate and assist in the investigation and prosecution of crime and the tracing, restraint and forfeiture of the proceeds and instruments of crime.

Under this proposed convention, the member states shall grant to each other the widest possible measure of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

Earlier, he said India had kept the commitment of “moving Saarc from declaration to implementation”.

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