Terrorists smuggling arms, drugs through Bay of Bengal: Sri Lanka

November 13th, 2008 - 7:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Nov 13 (IANS) As leaders of BIMSTEC countries decided to firm up a pact on combating terrorism in the region, Sri Lanka Thursday said the sea lanes through the Bay of Bengal were being used by terrorists to smuggle arms and drugs. “Terrorism is a major concern of BIMSTEC. Terrorists are using Bay of Bengal to transport arms and ammunition and drugs,” Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said at a joint press conference with leaders of BIMSTEC countries.

The resolution, adopted by the BIMSTEC nations at the end of the day-long summit, “fully reflects our concern” over growing terrorism in the region, Rajapaksa said.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) - a seven-nation regional groping comprising India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand, aims at enhancing intra-regional cooperation in areas ranging from terrorism, energy, food security to trade, tourism and transport.

Ranjapaksa also underlined the need for maritime surveillance and greater cooperation among countries of the region. “We discussed it (at the meeting). All countries and societies of the region are affected by terrorism. It will help people of the region,” Rajapaksa said in response to a question from a Sri Lankan journalist.

A couple of days ago, Rajapaksa had told select Indian journalists in Male, where he had gone to attend the swearing-in of new president Mohamed Nasheed, that the fishermen in the surrounding waters were being made to carry arms for the LTTE.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also emphasised the need to “combat this threat collectively” and said that the BIMSTEC leaders would soon finalise a convention on fighting international terrorism, trans-national organised crime and illicit drug trafficking.

“We are working on a convention to combat terrorism. I hope it will address all issues,” Singh said.

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