Pakistan will attend Heart of Asia conference in India: Sartaj Aziz


Pakistan has said it will take part in the Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan to be held in India despite tension and periodic exchange of fire across the Line of Control (LoC).

Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz confirmed that Pakistan will participate in the Heart of Asia conference.

“Pakistan will attend the Heart of Asia conference,” he told media yesterday. However, it was not clear the level of participation by Pakistan.

The key ministerial meeting of the conference – also called the Istanbul process – is scheduled to take place in Amritsar on 4 December.

Last year in December the meeting of the Istanbul process was hosted by Pakistan. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the meeting.

It is also not known if there would be any formal interaction between Pakistani and Indian officials.

Pakistan’s participation was doubtful due to ongoing tensions and Indian boycott of the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November.

Citing continuous cross-border terrorism from Pakistan following the Uri attack India had said that “in the present circumstances” it was unable to take part in the SAARC summit.

Officials familiar with the development have said that Pakistan has no intention of following the footsteps of India by staying away from the Heart of Asia conference.

“There is a growing sense among the stakeholders that Pakistan should attend the Heart of Asia-Istanbul conference,” said a senior government official, adding there was no point in boycotting the conference since it was about Afghanistan.

“As we have stated repeatedly that Pakistan will support every endeavour that contributes towards peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

The official said Pakistan’s participation in the meeting “would convey a ‘loud and clear’ message to the world that unlike India, it was in favour of reaching out to its neighbours for bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan”.

Foreign ministers from 14-member countries, including Russia, China and Turkey, are expected to attend the day-long conference meant to discuss the current Afghan situation and possible initiatives the immediate and extended neighbours of Afghanistan could undertake to restore long-term peace and stability in the war-torn country.

Officials from 17 other nations, including the US, will also attend the meet to be jointly presided over by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was established in 2011 at the initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey. Its main objective is to foster efforts for regional cooperation and connectivity with a view to promoting long-term peace and stability as well as progress and development in Afghanistan.