Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process‘ 6th Ministerial Conference held in Amritsar recently. It is aimed to help the political and economic transition of Afghanistan from the dark shadows of being a ‘conflict zone’.
Istanbul Process | About the conference
The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process presents a new vision of cooperation and confidence building for the region with Afghanistan at its centre.
- The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process articulates a set of principles, such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and promoting cooperation in the areas of common challenges and shared interests in the region.
- It provides a platform for discussing key regional issues among participating states.
- Since its inception in 2011, the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process has been led by two co-chairs: Afghanistan as a permanent co-chair, and one of the Heart of Asia countries hosting the annual ministerial meeting as the co-chair.
- As permanent co-chair of this regional process, Afghanistan has been recognized as the main focal point/ coordinator of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.
The 14 participating countries in HoA process are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and UAE. The supporting countries include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, U.K., U.S. and the E.U.
Istanbul Process | 6th Ministerial Conference in Amritsar
- The conference managed to sidestep Indo-Pakistan rivalry that often derails regional-multilateral initiatives (like SAARC).
- The issue of terrorism took centre stage in this event as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ashraf Ghani pointed fingers at Pakistan without mentioning it directly. President Ghani actually accused Pakistan for waging an undeclared war on Afghanistan.
- The conference was organised in Amritsar, a city of enormous strategic significance as far as the relationship between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India is concerned. India hosted the conference in Amritsar to emphasise the need for improved transit and trade relations among these countries as a means of increasing connectivity in the region.
- President Ashraf Ghani accused Pakistan of obstruction the peace process of Afghanistan with continuous terror attacks and it blamed Pakistan for supporting Lashkar-e-Toiba and Haqqani group. This is significant for India as both these groups are of immense concerns for India also.
- Pakistan attended the conference and did not fall in the trap to avoid the conference, otherwise a wrong message would have been communicated about Pakistan’s seriousness over the issue of bringing peace and stability to the Afghan region.
- A Memorandum of Understanding on ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative of China and agreements between the international community and Afghanistan for continued financial support to Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) until 2020 was signed.
- The Ministerial Conference also stressed on the need to respond to drug menace, finalisation of CCIT (Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism) and use of Afghanistan’s location as factor for better regional economic cooperation.
- Regional connectivity issues connecting Iran-Afghanistan-India and development of Chabahar Port were also taken into consideration.
Istanbul Process | Conclusion
Peace remains a distant dream for Afghanistan which is actually the ‘Heart of Asia’ and the bridge of South Asia to Central Asia. Pakistan’s support for Taliban and other terror factions in Afghanistan needs to be explored before looking for other options. President Ashraf Ghani bluntly asked Pakistan to keep the $500 million aid that it has promised for Afghanistan, to fight against the terrorists along the borders that it nourishes on their soil. This should be a significant and bold signal to the international community to focus on the real issues of instability in Afghanistan. It should be noted that the door to South Asia cannot remain disturbed if the house of South Asia aspires to stay in order. We certainly hope that Pakistan would realise it in due time.