Fighting Regional Terror
Pakistan, India and other member countries of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will be meeting this week in New Delhi to hold a discussion focusing on the security situation in Afghanistan and anti-terror measures under the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS). RATS is an important regional forum which is composed of the Executive Committee of the SCO, headquartered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which serves to promote cooperation of member states against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism.
This meeting of course assumes significance because this is the first such government delegation that will be visiting India after a new government under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took over last month. But more importantly, given the situation that is unfolding in Afghanistan, this meeting comes at a crucial juncture. With a surge in terror attacks in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries along with a rise in drug trafficking, there are widespread fears that the country is once again becoming a hub for terrorism.
Burdened by a myriad governance related challenges and a collapsing economy, it is evident that the Taliban government has been unable to clamp down on terror groups operating in the country. The issue of cross-border terrorism originating from Afghan soil haunts Pakistan in particular, with the TTP continuing to find safe havens in the country. But for Islamabad, it is not just the TTP which is a growing concern, as separatist terror groups have also been conducting major attacks in Balochistan.
This growing threat however extends to other parts of the region as well with ISIS-K expanding its footprint and launching attacks on countries such as Uzbekistan. China too fears the spread of militancy by the East Turkmenistan Movement along the Wakhan corridor into Xinjiang province.
Given the rapidly evolving nature of this challenge, it is imperative for regional stakeholders to discuss a way forward to curb this menace. This would of course require engagement with the Taliban government—which some SCO members have refrained from. It would be delusional to think that any country in the neighbourhood can insulate itself from the threat by looking the other away. States looking to use terror as a policy tool must seriously introspect because this fire will engulf the whole region if serious measures are not taken to clamp down on the growing presence of terror groups in Afghanistan.