‘Heart of Asia’ moot may open door to peace with Pakistan
KABUL (Pajhwok): Political analysts describe the fifth ‘Heart of Asia’ ministerial conference kicked off in Islamabad on Tuesday as “important” for Afghanistan and say it may open the door to peace with Pakistan.
The theme of the meeting, jointly hosted by Pakistan and Afghanistan, is ‘Heart of Asia — Istanbul Process: Enhanced cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the Heart of Asia region’.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced he would participate in the conference, saying it was a conference of Afghanistan. His and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s participation in the conference has given the ministerial conference a new momentum.
On the first day of the conference, senior officials are expected to meet and on the second day the ministerial conference will be held. Wednesday's ministerial session will be jointly inaugurated by the Afghan president and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The Pakistani government said high-ranking delegations from 14 participating states, 17 supporting countries and 12 international and regional organisations were expected to participate in the conference and Foreign Ministers from 10 countries have confirmed participation.
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates are part of the initiative launched in 2011 for encouraging economic and security cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours for dealing with the common problems of terrorism, extremism and poverty.
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani was expected in Islamabad on Tuesday while his deputy Hekmat Khalil Karzai had already reached there and President Ghani will be leaving for Islamabad on Wednesday.
Political expert Khushal Khalil said Afghanistan was among founders of the conference planned last year. As relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan deteriorated over the last few months, the Afghan government did not want to attend it, he said.
“It was a tough choice for Afghanistan whether to attend the conference or not. But it is good to attend because Afghanistan can convey its message to the world in a better way,” he said, believing the conference would open the door to talks between the two countries.
Another expert and Kabul University teacher Dr. Faiz Mohammad Zaland also said the conference was important from its own perspective and could play a key role in regional economic cooperation and connectivity. He said the visit by President Ghani to Islamabad was aimed at resuming the peace talks, thus signifying the trip’s importance.
Javed Ghafoor, another political analyst, said if the participants of the conference lacked the will for peace in Afghanistan, then the meeting would not be beneficial.
But the participation of President Ghani has increased the meeting’s worth and Afghanistan might achieve some gains, he said, adding that President Ghani announced his participation under pressure from the international community and due to Pakistan’s repeated requests. He said if Afghanistan explicitly spelled out its demands on Pakistan, it would help clarify the country’s stance to the world.
President Ghani on Monday told a press conference in Kabul that he was participating in the conference in Islamabad because it was a conference of Afghanistan not a conference of Pakistan.
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