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FATF test holds the key to Pakistan’s ‘SAARC plan’

Pakistan may have expressed its willingness to host the long-delayed summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), but India wants the neighbouring country to “walk the talk” on terrorism before any such meeting of the key regional body. Pakistan will have to pass the test of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in the month of June before India gives any word on whether the SAARC should be held in Islamabad or not.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) top officials recently discussed the Pakistan Foreign Minister’s statement showing the country’s readiness to host the SAARC summit later this year. The SAARC summit has been pending since 2016 as a result of growing tension between India and Pakistan over the Uri attack.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is learnt to have made it clear to the MEA officials that Pakistan must show some credible action against terrorism before being allowed to host the SAARC summit.

Sources told The Sunday Guardian that India will be watching how Pakistan is able to satisfy the FATF in its next meeting to be held by the end of June this year. “Only then will India be making its stand clear on attending the SAARC summit in Pakistan,” say sources.    

“FATF will be a significant test for Pakistan to clear before its entitlement to hosting the SAARC summit. If it gets black listed or it stays on the grey list of FATF, then Pakistan will have no moral authority whatsoever to host SAARC summit,” says a senior foreign service official posted in MEA.

The Paris-based terror and money laundering watchdog has already rebuked Pakistan over its utter failure to deal effectively with terrorism being promoted on its soil. Here one can recall how PM Modi had last year given a strong message about the SAARC nations (particularly Pakistan) to come clear on the issue of terrorism. “The full potential of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation can only be realised in an atmosphere free of terrorism and violence. Let us re-commit ourselves to defeating the forces that support and nurture terrorism, and to work collectively towards a secure and prosperous South Asia,” PM Modi said in a message on the occasion of the 36th Charter Day of SAARC in December last year.

An official said that Pakistan has not yet come up with what could convince the world community and SAARC member nations of its seriousness in uprooting terrorism from its soil. “Rather it has been found backing and sponsoring terror organisations operating from Pakistan’s soil,” he added. “There is no question of PM Modi visiting Pakistan if it continues to be a sympathiser of terror elements present there,” he said. FATF’s admonishment is already a substantial proof of Pakistan being negligent towards terrorism. Hence, India would prefer to keep a watch over how FATF takes a view of Pakistan’s further action in the next crucial meet in the month of June.

In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy had also said: “According to reports, there are several terrorist training camps in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK), which are used for training and subsequently for infiltrating trained militants and terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir for terrorist activities. Some of these training camps are still active and imparting training to militants.”

What the minister said goes on to suggest that Pakistan continues to be a patron of terror organisations, which continues to strain the ties with India. Even state actors in Pakistan are behind them, it is reported. “How can such a country stop funding the terror outfits,” asks a diplomat. “It can’t get FATF clean chit with this kind of activity. With this being the case, how can Pakistan be allowed to have a SAARC summit?”

The last SAARC summit was held in Kathmandu in 2014. The 2016 SAARC summit was to be held in Islamabad. But after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on 18 September that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to “prevailing circumstances”. The summit had to be called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate in the Islamabad meet.

SAARC summits are usually held biennially and hosted by member states in alphabetical order.

 

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