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Return of IS-trained terrorists worrying: MEA official

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Battle-hardened youths returning to their home countries to launch terror attacks after being trained and indoctrinated by IS was a major security concern and central Asian countries must act unitedly to combat the menace, a top External Affairs Ministry said today.

Secretary (West) of Ministry of External Affairs Sujata Mehta said the challenge for Central Asian countries was act to ensure that moderate views of assimilation and accommodation prevail amid an "onslaught of extremism".

"Reports suggest that those from Central who have gone to fight for Da'esh (IS) are likely to return to their roots to pursue their sinister agenda back home; there are already signs of Da'esh fighters joining, coordinating and launching terrorist attacks having returned battle-hardened and indoctrinated.

"The challenge for our Central Asian partners is to act to ensure that moderate views of assimilation and accommodation prevail amidst an onslaught of extremism," she said.

She was speaking at the Fourth India-Central Dialogue organised by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Mehta also said the rise of terror outfit IS has added another dimension to militancy in Central Asia, adding India's vision for the future cooperation with the countries of the region is "ambitious and at the same time realistic".

"Today, Central faces some persisting, and some new challenges. Regional security is a continuing concern. The situation in neighbouring Afghanistan, which shares a border with three Central Asian countries, is yet to stabilise.

"Drug trafficking and associated criminal activities have been a bane for the people of this region. The rise of Da'esh (IS) has added another dimension to extremism and militancy in the region," she said.

The senior MEA official said the current scenario, regionally and internationally, presents immense challenges but also offers potential for India and Central to qualitatively enhance their engagement.

"Both India and Central are factors of peace, stability, growth and development in the region and the world. Stronger relations between us will contribute to increased security and prosperity of these countries and the world.

"The significance of this region in the foreign policy matrix of India cannot be overemphasised and we believe that the security, stability and prosperity of Central is imperative for peace and economic development in India.

"We are each other's extended neighbourhood and the region has been a priority area of interest for Indian policymakers, practitioners and thinkers," Mehta added.

She said there was much that both sides can achieve in partnership and that this was a good moment to reflect on the major issues as Central Asian countries mark 25 years of their independence.

"12 experts from Central Asian countries are participating in the dialogue. Overall, over 20 speakers, including those from India, will address different sessions over the two days," a senior official said.

As highlighted by the Prime Minister at the World Sufi

Forum here, Islamic civilisation stands on the bedrock of a great religion which espouses peace, diversity and the equality of faith.

"The highest ideals of Islam have always rejected the forces of terrorism and extremism, and together with Central Asia, India would like to work towards the revival of this glorious heritage," Mehta said.

During the two-day event, experts from various countries will deliberate on impact of changing global dynamics in the region and discuss ways to boost multilateral cooperation.

Zilola Karimova, Head of Middle East Division, Information-analytical Centre for International Relations in Tashkent, said "the relationship in the region should be based on cooperation and not competition."

Central Asia, in the modern context, generally includes five countries -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The first India-Central Dialogue was held in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyz Republic in 2012, second in Alamaty, Kazakhstan in 2013 and third in Dushanbe, capital city of Tajikistan in 2014.

Mehta said India had elaborated the elements of 'Connect Central Asia' in Bishkek in 2012 and in that context, the annual India-Central Dialogue provides a platform for scholarly discussions, which is a valuable supplement to governmental level bilateral and multilateral engagements.

"This fourth dialogue in Delhi is an occasion to review progress and perhaps update the agenda and explore and add new ideas for the future," she added.

"I would like to offer condolences to Uzbek colleagues at the passing away of the late President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan in September this year. He was widely respected and admired in India, and had contributed greatly to strengthening our relations," she said.

Furthermore, the dialogue and discussion is being taken beyond the four walls to webinar platform, Mehta said.

In pursuing such initiatives we would like to draw on a "most valuable asset". That relations between India and Central are civilisational is something that we know intuitively - it is so intrinsic to our reality, she said.

"There is great potential to create regional economic corridors and networks of roads, railways, energy grids and of market integration all of which requires cooperative endeavour," she said.

"I should like to note that in the first such Dialogue we had noted that the political warmth and proximity between us was not equally manifest in the scale of economic exchanges between us and that we need to work for a convergence between these two aspects," she added.

"At this juncture India would hope to participate in these national celebrations through a range of events also marking 25 years of our diplomatic relations... I would like to close by expressing the hope that we may arrange exchanges of visits by young people who were born in the year we established diplomatic relations," she said.

First Published: Thu, December 01 2016. 22:07 IST