Exploring effective ways to combat terrorism, particularly that emanating from Pakistan, and helping Afghanistan achieve peace and stability will be the focus of the two-day Heart of Asia (HoA) conclave in Amritsar beginning Saturday which will be attended among others by Islamabad’s representative Sartaj Aziz.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Affairs Advisor to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are among leaders who will attend the annual conference. The previous such conclave was held in Islamabad last year. India has been non-committal on a bilateral meeting between Aziz and its representative at the conclave.
With Afghanistan still facing regular attacks from Pakistan-based terror groups, the war-ravaged country is likely to press for an effective counter-terror strategy to deal with the menace. India will also articulate its position to contain terrorism and extremism at the conference.
“Definitely, combating terror will be a major focus area,” diplomatic sources said. India is also likely to ask contries in the region to show strong resolve to contain terrorism.
As External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is not keeping well, the government is likely depute a senior Cabinet Minister to represent India at the key deliberations. MoS in Ministry of External Affairs V K Singh and M J Akbar are also attending the meet.
Afghanistan, the chair of HoA, had circulated a draft among member countries for dealing with major challenges like terror. The participating countries will deliberate on it.
The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 and the participating countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates. Swaraj had attended last year’s conference in Islamabad.
The platform was floated with an aim to encourage security, political and economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours.
The countries which support the initiative are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Finland, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the US.
During the deliberations, the leaders are also expected to discuss the need to speed up support to Afghanistan so that peace and stability returns to the war-ravaged country. The Afghan President will also have a bilateral meeting with Modi on the sidelines of the conference.