UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations launched a programme this week to get India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other South Asian nations to join forces to fight terrorism.

In a first step to building regional cooperation, the UN brought police and prosecuters from eight countries in South Asia together to talk about problems in fighting terrorism.

Mike Smith, the UN official who organised the three-day workshop in Bangladesh, said on Friday it didn’t get into the political issues that divide the countries and have prevented joint efforts to tackle acts of terrorism that often cross borders.

Instead, he said, police and prosecutors from the eight countries talked about common problems, “getting into how their professional operational activities could be improved ... if they were able to have more frequent contacts with each other.” Smith, who heads the UN Counterterrorism Committee’s Executive Directorate, called the workshop in Dkaka, “a small but significant first step at a working level building cooperation.” The South Asian region, “probably more than just about any other in the world, has suffered grievously from terrorism over a very long period,” he said, citing multiple terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.

But Smith said regional cooperation to fight terrorism has been very limited so the UN decided to invite senior police and prosecution officials from eight South Asian nations — India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives — to the workshop to compare how they work and “to start building habits of cooperation between the countries.”

At the Dhaka workshop, Smith brought in “facilitators” from the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation, which has trained about 6,000 people over the past five years.