Take-aways from the Heart of Asia Conclave in Amritsar        

The photographs have been taken, speeches delivered, Amritsar declaration released. NH cuts through the clutter to help you understand what happened at the Heart of Asia ministerial meet on Sunday

Photo by Gurpreet Singh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Gurpreet Singh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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NH Political Bureau

Fourteen countries—including China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Russia, the UAE and Turkey, besides India, Pakistan and Afghanistan—are part of the Heart of Asia initiative that aims at encouraging trade, connectivity and security cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours, and to address common problems of terrorism, extremism and poverty. The initiative is supported by 17 other countries including the US, and groupings like the European Union. India hosted the 6th ministerial meeting of HoA at Amritsar on December 3 and 4, 2016.


*For the first time in 2016, Indian and Pakistani officials exchanged pleasantries and broke bread after months of tough talk, border shelling and terrorist attacks that began at Pathankot on January 2 and continued throughout the year.


*The highlight of the 6th Heart of Asia ministerial meet was the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accusing Pakistan of waging an ‘undeclared war’ against Afghanistan and for giving sanctuary to the Taliban.


*“We need to identify cross-border terrorism and a fund to combat terrorism. Pakistan has pledged $500 million for Afghanistan's development. This amount can be spent to contain extremism," Ghani said, directly addressing Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz.


*“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," the Afghan president declared without mincing his words.

Photo Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visits the Golden Temple on December 4, 2016, before the 6th ministerial Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar

*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," he added.


*With the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also calling for resolute action against terror groups and those who supported and financed terrorists, seen as an oblique reference to Pakistan, Indian officials appeared happy at the isolation of Pakistan and the embarrassment it suffered.

The highlight of the 6th Heart of Asia ministerial meet was the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accusing Pakistan of waging an ‘undeclared war’ against Afghanistan and for giving sanctuary to the Taliban.      


*Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on foreign affairs to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, hit back by saying that it was simplistic to blame one country for the complex security situation in Afghanistan. There was no military solution, he stressed, and called for greater regional cooperation.


*Ironically, the conference in an official resolution lauded Pakistan and Iran for hosting millions of Afghan refugees over the past several decades. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit also pointed out the sacrifices made by Pakistan.


*Participation of Sartaj Aziz sparked controversy on both sides of the border. While the Opposition in Pakistan criticised Aziz for attending the dinner hosted by the Indian Prime Minister while Pakistani civilians were being killed by the Indian army, right wing commentators in India questioned the wisdom of allowing Aziz to arrive a day earlier.

With the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also calling for resolute action against terror groups and those who supported and financed terrorists, seen as an oblique reference to Pakistan, Indian officials appeared happy at the isolation of Pakistan and the embarrassment it suffered.


*Meanwhile Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune claimed that Aziz was stopped from speaking to media in his hotel in Amritsar over ‘security reasons’. According to Express News, the adviser then decided to hold a press conference in another hotel but was again denied approval. It also alleged that upon his arrival, that Indian immigration officials reportedly made the foreign adviser wait for half an hour at Amritsar airport.


*The newspaper also reported that Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit was not allowed to speak to media, and security officials tried to stop Pakistani journalists from approaching the diplomat.


*Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Shireen Mazari on Sunday said that, “It was shameful of the prime minister’s adviser to attend the dinner ceremony hosted by the Indian premier. She said, “India is killing our civilians and we are having dinner with them.” India was taking advantage of Nawaz Sharif’s personal friendship with his Indian counterpart, she alleged.

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Published: 5 Dec 2016, 10:02 AM
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