6th Heart of Asia Conference

Indo-Afghan Pakistan bashing pushes Russia, China & Pak to hold separate moot on Afghanistan

The sixth Heart of Asia (HOA) Summit held in Amritsar proved a futile exercise in making any development regarding peace and tranquility in Afghanistan. It was all due to hostile attitude of both the eastern and western neighbours of Pakistan; India and Afghanistan. At HOA Afghan President Ashraf Ghani joined hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Pakistan bashing.

India also tried to manipulate BRICS summit to malign Pakistan but China gave a shut up call to India and Russia showed indifference to humility tasted by India. Similarly, at HOA, Russia gave shut up call to India and Afghanistan with proposal to resolve their issues through bilateral talks.

The theme of the conference was ‘enhanced cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the Heart of Asia region’, and speculation was rife that India and Afghanistan would seek to pin Pakistan on terrorism. 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.

Ashraf Ghani opened the conference by snubbing a $500 million pledge from Pakistan for development projects in Afghanistan, saying Afghanistan ‘needs aid to fight terrorism. We need to identify cross-border terrorism and a fund to combat terrorism. Pakistan has pledged $500m for Afghanistan’s development. This amount can be spent to contain extremism, Afghanistan suffered the highest number of casualties last year. This is unacceptable. Some still provide sanctuary for terrorists.

As a Taliban figure said recently, if they had no sanctuary in Pakistan, they wouldn’t last a month. I don’t want a blame game; I want clarifications on what is being done to prevent the export of terror. He emphasized the need to confront the fifth spectrum in the room, which is terrorism and called on Pakistan to verify cross-border activities. The Afghan president appreciated India’s support to Afghanistan, which he said comes with no strings attached. The relationship is based on shared values and beliefs.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his opening remarks although did not refer explicitly to Pakistan in his speech, yet he vowed to step up a drive to isolate Pakistan diplomatically following the Uri army base attack in September, which it blames on Pakistan ─ an allegation Islamabad denies.  We must counter terrorists and their masters. We must demonstrate strong collective will to defeat terror network that cause bloodshed and spread fear.  Silence and inaction on terror in Afghanistan and the region will only embolden terrorists and masters and those fund them. India is committed to durable peace in Afghanistan, and announced plans to connect India and Afghanistan via an air-link, as well as discussed the possibility of trilateral cooperation over Iran’s Chahbahar port. India-Afghanistan-Iran cooperation on the Chahbahar port will help Afghanistan to connect its economy to the rest of the world.

Russian special envoy on Afghanistan said all parties involved in the war-torn country’s reconstruction must work together and that the Heart of Asia was not the platform for India and Pakistan to score brownie points. Downplaying Russia’s military exercise with Pakistan two months ago, Zamir Kabulov, who oversees Russia’s engagement in Afghanistan, referred to India’s increasing cooperation with the US. The HoA should not be used by India and Pakistan for scoring points, he told reporters. Bilateral issues should not cloud forums like the Heart of Asia, replying to a question on Pakistan supporting terror groups operating from its soil.

Articulating Moscow’s position on Afghanistan’s transition Kabulov said all major players, including India, must extend all possible support to Afghanistan in its transition. India has close cooperation with the US, does Moscow complain? Then why complain about much lower level of cooperation with Pakistan, he asked when referred to Russia-Pakistan military exercise.  Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz slammed Ghani’s ‘baseless accusations’ on Pakistan and called for evolving a joint and purposeful strategy for lasting peace in Afghanistan, It is simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view.

Peaceful resolution to all the longstanding issues is the only way forward for regional cooperation and connectivity. Pakistan is ready to extend every kind of cooperation for lasting peace in Afghanistan. Afghanistan should avoid leveling false and baseless accusations at Pakistan.  He underlined the need to address through effective and collective efforts the continuing wave of terrorism and violence in Afghanistan which had claimed scores of human lives and observed that the signing of a peace agreement between the Afghan government and Hizb-i-Islami may serve as a model for talks with other groups in the future.

Peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban had not produced positive results, adding that Pakistan was making a serious effort to facilitate peace talks through the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG). QCG members must to continue their efforts for talks between the Afghan government and Taliban.

Indian-Afghan hostility towards Pakistan pushed natural allies Russia, China and Pakistan announced to hold another trilateral moot on Afghanistan in Moscow and they pointed to the worsening security situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and were especially worried about intensifying activities by extremist groups in that country, including the Afghan branch of ISIS.  The participants agreed to continue efforts to assist in furthering the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan, based on the key role of the Afghans themselves and in line with the principles of integrating the armed opposition into peaceful life.

Russia and China, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, reaffirmed their readiness for flexible approaches to the prospect of excluding certain individuals from the list of sanctioned persons as part of efforts to promote a peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban movement. The participants agreed to continue consultations in an expanded format and therefore would like to see Afghanistan take part. The participants also met with Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.  However, Kabul expressed displeasure over trilateral consultations. Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MoFA) spokesman Ahmad Shekib Mustaghni said that the agenda of the meeting was a matter of concern for Afghanistan because Afghanistan being the focus of consultations, but Kabul was not consulted. Talking on Afghanistan without consulting the country raises serious questions for the Afghan people. We are worried that what are the reasons behind the meeting and want the relevant parties to explain. But Russia welcomed Afghan participation in such future consultations.

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