New Delhi :
India will host a major conference tomorrow aimed at bringing peace and stability to war-ravaged Afghanistan and speeding up its reconstruction with a focus on boosting investment and enhancing connectivity to the country.
The ‘Heart of Asia’ (HoA) conference, to be attended by officials of a number of countries including Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, is likely to deliberate on a host of issues such a combating challenge of extremism and terrorism.
The key elements of HoA process have been to devise a sustained, incremental approach to implementation of the confidence building measures (CBM) in Afghanistan and the officials are set to deliberate on them during the conference.
Energy, infrastructure and investment deals to shore up economic growth of Afghanistan may figure in the talks.
In HoA process, India has been demanding dismantling safe havens and sanctuaries of terror in the region besides pressing for deeper engagement of various stakeholders for Afghanistan’s stability and security.
India is against mainstreaming of armed groups without adhering to the red lines. It has also been seeking action on combating the twin scourges of extremism and separatism besides emphasising on disrupting financial and other kinds of support to terrorism.
India has also been favouring enhancing connectivity of Afghanistan with regional markets.
The first foreign ministers-level meeting of the HoA process was held under the aegis of the ‘Istanbul Conference’ in November, 2011. It presented a new vision of cooperation and confidence building for the region with Afghanistan at its centre by bringing together Afghanistan and its surrounding region.
The conference had agreed that the Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a secure and stable Afghanistan is a non-binding process.
India is actively participating in all the six CBMs under this mechanism including counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, disaster management, education and regional infrastructure.
The Istanbul process has been consistent with India’s vision of achieving lasting stability and prosperity for Afghanistan, anchored in a regional environment that is stable, economically integrated and conducive to shared prosperity.
The second ministerial conference was held in 2012 in Kabul while the third in 2013 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The fourth conference took place in Beijing and the fifth conference was held in Islamabad in December last year which was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
India hosted the senior officials Meeting of the Istanbul process in January 17, 2014 in New Delhi. India is set to host the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the HoA Process in the last quarter of 2016.
The 14 participating countries in HoA process are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and UAE.
The supporting countries include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, UK the US and the EU.