‘Pulwama attack fortified India’s war on terror’: Sushma Swaraj

The February 14 suicide terror attack in Pulwama and the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka have strengthened India’s resolve to fight terror and boost security cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Wednesday.

India is also committed to support any process that allows Afghanistan to become a united, peaceful and stable country, Swaraj said in her address at the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of SCO states in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

Swaraj held talks with several leaders on the margins of the meeting, including her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. She exchanged pleasantries with Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi but there was no bilateral meeting, people familiar with developments said.

“Our heart goes out to our brothers and sisters of Sri Lanka, who have recently witnessed the ghastly act of terrorism. Our wounds of Pulwama attack were still raw and the news from the neighbourhood has made us more determined to fight firmly [and] resolutely against this menace,” Swaraj said.

Nine suicide bombers struck three churches and three luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on April 21, killing more than 250 people.

The Islamic State claimed the attacks while the government blamed a local group, National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ), for the bombings. The attacks came almost two months after a suicide attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir killed 40 Indian troops.

Swaraj said India wants to strengthen cooperation within the SCO framework for comprehensive and sustainable security and is open to ideas for making the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) of SCO more effective.

India will back any process that helps Afghanistan emerge as a “united, peaceful, secure, stable, inclusive and economically vibrant nation with guaranteed gender and human rights”, she said. Swaraj underscored the importance India attaches to SCO’s Afghanistan Contact Group and called for the early conclusion of a draft road map for further actions by this group.

During his meeting with Swaraj, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi expressed his country’s desire to work with India’s new government, people familiar with developments said. The focus of the India-China meeting was on implementing goals agreed on at the 2018 informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, the people added.

Swaraj’s meeting with Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov focused on expanding bilateral ties and preparations for the SCO Summit in Bishkek in June.

India and Pakistan became full members of SCO in 2017 and Swaraj said in her speech that New Delhi is committed to measures aimed at boosting economic and trade cooperation with the members of the grouping.

India’s commitment to regional connectivity is reflected by its involvement in the International North-South Transport Corridor, Iran’s Chabahar port and the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, she said.

First Published:
May 23, 2019 00:12 IST

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