Amritsar:(APS) December 4,2016- The sixth Heart of Asia conference was jointly inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday in Amritsar, Times of India reported.
The two-day moot kicked off amidst a media frenzy as a handshake between Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sparked speculation regarding the possibility of a Pak-India meeting on the sidelines of the event.
Reports speculated whether Sartaj Aziz’s early arrival in India on Saturday presaged a ‘chance’ bilateral meeting with Indian PM Modi, who is hosting the multilateral conference on Afghanistan.
Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesman Vikas Swarup has, however, rubbished the rumours citing “a climate of continued terrorism” as the reason bilateral talks may not take place. “India will never accept continued terrorism as the new normal of the bilateral relationship,”
Although the theme of the conference is ‘enhanced cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the Heart of Asia region’, it is being speculated that India and Afghanistan will seek to pin Pakistan on terrorism, with a possible draft declaration at the conference, which will include hard reference to “cross-border terrorism”, and “sanctuaries for terror groups”.
A senior officials’ meeting of the Heart of Asia process, themed ‘Addressing Challenges, Achieving Prosperity’, was held on Saturday and their deliberations were to feed into the ministerial session today.
The initiative was launched in 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey for encouraging economic and security cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours for dealing with the common problems of terrorism, extremism and poverty
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates are part of the Heart of Asia initiative.
Six key areas in which the 14 countries have been pursuing confidence-building measures since the 2013 Almaty meeting are disaster management, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, trade and investment, regional infrastructure, and education.
The process is supported by 17 other, predominantly Western, countries, and 12 international organisations which are also sending senior representatives.