Amritsar: The Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process on Afghanistan today adopted the Amritsar Declaration which puts focus on the Heart of Asia countries and supporting countries and organizations working together to comprehensively address the menace of terrorism.
The Conference had substantive deliberations on a number of facets pertaining to the situation in Afghanistan. It was jointly inaugurated earlier today by the President of Afghanistan Dr Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.
In their respective addresses, both the leaders stressed the imperative of eliminating terrorism and violent extremism for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity not only in Afghanistan but also in the entire region.
In his inaugural address Prime Minister Narendra Modi said terrorism and externally induced instability pose the gravest threat to Afghanistan’s peace, stability and prosperity. And, the growing arc of terrorist violence endangers our entire region. As such, support for voices of peace in Afghanistan alone is not enough.
The fight against terror must be backed by resolute action, Modi said adding there should be action not just against forces of terrorism, but also against those who support, shelter, train and finance them.
The Prime Minister went on to underscore that silence and inaction against terrorism in Afghanistan and our region will only embolden terrorists and their masters. Third, our bilateral and regional commitments of material assistance for Afghanistan’s development and humanitarian needs must continue and increase.
Our cooperative endeavours in Afghanistan should contribute to its infrastructure and institutional capacity, and self-propelling engines of growth, the Prime Minister amphasised.
Modi also went on to assert that there should be stronger positive connectivity between Afghanistan and other countries of the region. Afghanistan should be at the centre of our connectivity networks, not peripheral to them. On our part, we see Afghanistan as the hub for strengthening links of connectivity between South Asia and Central Asia.
The President of Afghanistan gave a stern message to Pakistan. It not only refused to accept a $500 million aid but told Pakistan that it should use this money against the terror outfits.
Addressing the media at the conclusion of the conferenece, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the three big issues of the conference were:
(i) Countering terrorism to create stability and security in Afghanistan
(ii) Providing Afghanistan connectivity to strengthen economic activities and
(iii) Development, which is essential for the progress of Afghanistan.
The Declaration recognizes terrorism as the biggest threat to peace and stability and demands immediate end to all forms of terrorism and all support, financing, safe havens and sanctuaries to it.
For the first time, a Heart of Asia Declaration expressed concern at the violence caused in Afghanistan and the region by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Daesh, LeT and JeM etc.
Apart from calling for concerted international cooperation to this end, the Declaration also calls for early finalization of the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and early meeting of experts to discuss a draft Regional Counter-Terrorism Framework Strategy, recently prepared by Afghanistan, for its early finalization.
The discussions and the Declaration reiterated the strong support from the Heart of Asia countries for Afghanistan’s efforts to use its geographic location to enhance wider regional economic cooperation. Specific initiatives in this regard including the India-Iran-Afghanistan Trilateral Agreement on developing Chabahar were acknowledged.
On India’s part, we are also engaged bilaterally with Afghanistan to upgrade our connectivity linkages with the aim of making Afghanistan, in the words of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, a geography of peace.
During the Conference various delegations expressed appreciation for the constructive role that India has been playing in supporting Afghanistan and its people in the past decade and a half.
You would also have noticed that the choice of Amritsar as the venue for the Conference was a deliberate one intended to highlight the immense potential for regional connectivity and the benefits that it can bring to land-locked Afghanistan, provided concerned countries show the required sincerity and political determination.
During the deliberations the delegations welcomed the offer of the Republic of Azerbaijan to host the next Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process as Co-Chair in 2017.
Over the last two days when the large majority of the participants in the Conference were in Amritsar, we had the privilege of arranging visits for them to some places of historical and spiritual significance in this city such as the Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh. They also visited the Integrated Check Point at Attari.
Before concluding I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the Government of Punjab and the people of Amritsar for their whole-hearted support over the last few days for a successful conduct of the Conference.
It has been a privilege for India to Co-chair the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process in 2016. As we pass on the baton, we look upon the year with satisfaction. We believe that we have contributed in a significant way to the Process through the initiatives we took and the activities we organized for the betterment of Afghanistan. The Amritsar Declaration has also refocused attention to certain core requirements of Afghanistan, embodied in the Declaration’s theme: ‘Addressing Challenges, Achieving Prosperity.’
The Conference was attended by delegations from practically every participating country, supporting countries and international organizations – 45 in all. The delegations of Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan, and of the European Union- were led by the respective Ministers.
The Conference also saw the presence and participation of guest countries Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia and Uzbekistan.
Advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, on arrival here last night met India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. According to reports, the meetings lasted more than half-an-hour.