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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Afghanistan: What lies at the Heart of Asia?

Sushma Swaraj leaves for Islamabad today. Indian Express explains the ‘Heart of Asia’ Conference.

Written by Sushant Singh |
December 8, 2015 12:48:00 am
sushma swaraj, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, swaraj travels to Islamabad, sartaj aziz, pakistan , sushma in pakistan, indo-pak relations, terrorism, discussion on terrorism, swaraj discuss terrorism, sushma swaraj news, political news, latest news External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. (Express Photo By Amit Mehra)

What is the Heart of Asia conference?

It is a part of the ‘Istanbul Process’, which provides a platform to discuss an agenda of regional cooperation with Afghanistan at its centre. ‘Heart of Asia’ countries engage in result-oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and, by extension, a secure and prosperous region as a whole.

Which countries are involved in the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process?

Fourteen member countries are supported by 16 other countries and 12 regional and international organisations. The member countries are: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the UAE. The United States, Japan, Egypt, the United Kingdom, France and Germany are among the supporting countries, while the UN, NATO, SAARC, SCO and OIC are among the supporting organisations.

What are the focus areas of the conference?

The countries in the Istanbul Process have agreed on 1) political consultation involving Afghanistan and its near and extended neighbours, 2) a sustained incremental approach to implementation of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) identified in the Istanbul Process document, and 3) seeking to contribute and bring greater coherence to the work of various regional processes and organisations, particularly as they relate to Afghanistan.

What are the areas for CBMs identified in the Istanbul Process document?

Disaster management, Counter-terrorism, Counter-narcotics, Trade, Commerce and Investment, Regional infrastructure, and Education.

Where have earlier editions of the Heart of Asia conference been held?

The first conference was held in Istanbul in Turkey in 2011 — this is where the process gets its name from. It was next held in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2012; Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 2013 and Beijing, China, in 2014. The 2015 meet, the fifth, is co-hosted by Pakistan and Afghanistan, and is being held on December 8 and 9 in Islamabad. The Heart of Asia Senior Officials Meeting is scheduled for the first day, prior to the Ministerial Conference on December 9 to discuss the declaration.

Has India held any meeting related to the conference?

India is the lead country for Trade, Commerce and Investment Opportunities, and has hosted six regional technical group meetings on trade, commerce and investment opportunities for Heart of Asia in New Delhi between 2012 and 2015.

What are likely to be the major areas of discussion in Islamabad?

The Conference is likely to focus on recommencement of dialogue between the Afghan national government and the Taliban. But this is likely to be complicated by the death of Mullah Omar and, recently, the reported death of his successor Mullah Mansour. The rise of the Islamic State terrorist group in Afghanistan and Central Asia, and concerns over the threat it poses to the region are also likely to be discussed.

Afghanistan, which faces an uncertain fiscal situation, is likely to seek greater aid, grants and loans. The NATO military drawdown has led to a reduction in the global aid that has kept the Afghan government afloat since 2002. Without additional financial aid, the Afghan government will find it increasingly difficult to rule. Some pledges from developed countries are expected during the Conference.

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