Wednesday, Sep 25, 2002
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By P. S. Suryanarayana
He is visiting Vietnam as also Malaysia and Singapore. Mr. Daley's brief in Vietnam includes a close look at the strategic relationship among that country and the U.S. as also Hanoi's regional neighbours. However, the primary focus of American public diplomacy concerning his current visit to South-East Asia will be counter-terrorism in the new context of a raging regional awareness about the activities of some local terrorist groups, which are suspected to have developed links with Al-Qaeda.
A talking point in the Asia-Pacific diplomatic circles at this point is the likelihood of the U.S. designating South-East Asia's Jemaah Islamiyah as a terrorist organisation. While Mr. Daley is seized of this issue during his current tour of this region, the Singapore authorities, who have acted proactively in busting a suspected terror network in the City-State, have drawn attention to how the Jemaah Islamiyah has spread its terrorist wings across the region.
Abu Bakar Basiyir (a variant of Bashir) of Indonesia is being seen in several parts of South-East Asia as possibly the man behind a pan-regional militant outfit. In Indonesia, the Megawati Sukarnoputri administration is still weighing the issue before making a judgement about Mr. Bashir one way or the other. The country's police chief had only recently said that conclusive evidence was lacking to label Mr. Bashir as a terror don.
Another key suspect with a regional terrorist reach is also being linked to Mr. Bashir, while the southern Filipino region of Mindanao, where the separatist Moro Islamic outfit operates, is being viewed as a possible outpost of, or more precisely, as an area hospitable to the Jemaah Islamiyah.
In a related development, the U.S., has in recent days, taken both Singapore and Hong Kong on board for the "Container Security Initiative''. According to the U.S. Customs authorities, Singapore, the world's premier transhipment facility, has become the first Asian port to join the new American initiative which has been crafted to prevent terrorists from laying their hands on global sea-cargo for their transnational activities. Hong Kong has also signed a similar declaration that entails pre-shipment screening of cargo bound for the U.S.
In yet another development, the U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury, John Taylor, has said after talks in Manila that America feels "very reassured by the degree of cooperation'' it has been receiving in this region to ``track terrorist funding''.
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