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Lessons from Mumbai

As India picks up the pieces of the Mumbai carnage there is bound to be much soul searching and recrimination on what went wrong by the authorities.

Already the blame game is on and security loopholes are being put under the microscope by analysts and commentators. Heads are also poised to roll.

The Home Affairs Minister and the national security advisor have opted to resign.

As Sri Lankans who felt the shock and pangs of the tragedy more closely than most we can only wish that our friendly neighbour recover from the ashes and emerge stronger and sturdier by its harrowing experience to be well equipped and prepared to face challenges of the evil forces.

What it needs now at this crucial hour is not only the morale support of its well wishers but also a collective effort to stamp out the scourge of terrorism in more concrete terms.

In this context the proposal mooted by Government Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella calling for a SAARC initiative to combat the terrorist menace more forcefully is a matter worthy of consideration.

Speaking to our weekend paper the Sunday Observer in the aftermath of the Mumbai tragedy Minister Rambukwella said there is a need for greater cooperation among South Asian countries to combat terrorism more forcefully than in the past, noting that it is the SAARC nations which had suffered most by the scourge.

Like the Minister said the topic of terrorism has been high on the agenda at all SAARC summits and leaders redouble their commitment to fight the menace at every succeeding parley. We need to think regionally if we are to get over the problem of terrorism that seems to be on the rise given the recent spate of attacks carried out both in India and in Pakistan.

Cross border terrorism has done much damage to destabilise countries and also efforts at mending fences. The Mumbai attack has already caused tension in the tenuous Indo-Pakistan relations which were on the mend in recent times, following allegations that the Mumbai attackers had been trained in Pakistan.

Cross border terrorism, now more than a mere subject of internal security, has the potential to aggravate already sour relations between nations and even precipitate war.

It is hoped that the current tensions between India and Pakistan springing from the Mumbai episode would ease and that diplomacy would triumph over the current war of words.

What is now needed is a firm resolve to deal with terrorism by the SAARC family going beyond the rhetoric. Perhaps an urgent summit of SAARC leaders to map out more effective counter terror strategies is called for.

For instance attention should be focused to block all potential entry points for terrorists in the wake of the revelation that the Mumbai attackers had arrived by boats laden with explosives.

Joint patrolling of the maritime lanes should be intensified and the coastguard strengthened with view to indict terrorist movements. Sri Lanka too has always been vulnerable on this front with terrorists having a free run of the seas prior to effective sealing of the sea routes by the Lankan Navy.

Still we cannot afford to take chances since terror outfits have grown in sophistication and could pull a surprise. Both India and Sri Lanka have also taken very seriously the threat posed by the LTTE’s air wing and it could be a matter of time before other terror groups in the region literally take wing. The Mumbai attack is bound to provoke a sea change in the India’s attitude and force it to take up a hardline stance on stamping out terrorism. The coming days would witness India declaring an all out war against terrorism.

Whatever indulgences the Indian Government may have adopted due to domestic compulsions would undergo a rethink particularly given the anguish of the Indian public.

There is bound to be an outcry by the Indian public on the need to deal with terrorism in the strongest possible manner. This no doubt would have an impact on elements in Tamil Nadu who pander to the LTTE.

The Indian Government cannot be seen to be sympathetic to any cause where there is a terrorist element. In this context there is a need for updating intelligence. According to commentators the Indian security establishment had been caught napping due to poor intelligence. One of the terrorists it was revealed had been working as a cook at the Taj Hotel which bore the brunt of the mayhem.

More stress being laid on intelligence across the borders would also prove a boon to Sri Lanka which is trying to unravel the LTTE nexus with South Indian states.

India would now need to tackle terrorism from a regional perspective and need the support and assistance of its neighbours more than ever.

This coming together of nations as a single unit to deal with the problem may prove to the be most effective solution to deal a death blow to phantom of terrorism stalking the region.

Lanka’s role in Saarc

Heritage For Coexistence: Situating Sri Lanka’s Role in the SAARC region:

Excerpts from the D.A. Rajapaksa memorial lecture 2008 by Sudharshan Seneviratne, Director General, Central Cultural Fund and Professor of Archaeology. University of Peradeniya

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A community-led role in :

Counter-terrorism

As India haemorrhages from and mourns the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, a sense of despair and hopelessness is sinking into the national psyche. From every corner of the country, people are staring blankly at one another and wondering whether the dark night of random and indiscriminate violence aimed at innocent civilians will ever end.

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World Aids Day today

Challenging a global scourge

At the end of 2008, Dr Peter Piot, the founding Executive Director of UNAIDS, will leave his post after leading the organisation since his appointment in 1994. He reflected on past milestones and future challenges in an interview with John Donnelly on the eve of Word Aids Day, December 1,

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