The Big Picture -Takeaways from Heart of Asia Conference
The 6th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia- Istanbul Process to help the political and economic transition of Afghanistan recently managed to sidestep Indo-Pak rivalry that often derails regional initiatives. The Conference in Amritsar which was attended by over 40 delegations took place under the shadow of rising tensions between India and Pakistan. However, some give and take ensured that the Conference actually materializes and the process remains on track. The issue of terrorism took centre stage in this event as well while Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi pointed at the terror emanating from the land of Pakistan without naming it and Mr. Ashraf Ghani accused the country for launching an undeclared war on Afghanistan.
- The key point here is the fact that the Conference was held in Amritsar which is a city of enormous significance as far as the triangular relationship between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India is concerned and for Iran as well. The idea behind hosting the Conference in Amritsar was originally to emphasize the need for improved transit and trade relations among all these countries as a means of increasing connectivity and trade within the region.
- This is a multilateral forum but it is meant for Afghanistan. Afghanistan is quite worried and concerned about terrorism and the statement by Mr. Ghani signifies that the development of Afghanistan is somehow obstructed by the continuous terror attacks and surprisingly the terror groups were identified like Lashar-e-Toiba and Haqqani group. Terrorism was definitely one of the core concerns of this meeting.
- If Pakistan would not have attended the Conference, it would have given a very different context and contour to this Conference. But Pakistan participated and behaved in a very civilized manner. The relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan because of its close proximity both geographical and historical is inevitable. Issues in Afghanistan cannot be resolved without Pakistan. Pakistan also has to reaffirm its stakes with this country. There was a lot of peer pressure internationally on Pakistan to set its house right which is in total disorder and stop giving institutional support to the terror groups.
- It was also mentioned about the urgency to respond to the drug menace, finalization on the draft CCIT (Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism), and use Afghanistan’s location as factor for better regional economic cooperation.
- The MoU on One Belt One Road Initiative and agreements between the international community and Afghanistan for continued financial support to the Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) until 2020 were welcomed.
- The initiatives regarding regional connectivity including Iran-India-Afghanistan trilateral agreement on developing Chabahar port were also taken into consideration.
However, peace and stability of Afghanistan remain elusive and the nascent Afghan democracy continues to be attacked because of different reasons. There is a need to assure regional cooperation for peace, security and development in Afghanistan which will also contribute to the stability and prosperity to Afghanistan’s extended neighbourhood in South, Central and West Asia.