6th Heart of Asia conference to begin today in Amritsar

India has unequivocally stated that increased terror attacks will not be the new-normal for ties with Pakistan thereby ruling out any deliberations with the Pakistani delegation on the sidelines of the upcoming sixth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia which will begin on Saturday. The conference will focus on stabilising war-ravaged Afghanistan along with terrorism. Over 40 foreign ministers and dignitaries from China, Russia, Iran and United Arab Emirates, USA, Canada and France besides the European Union will participate in the conference.


A throwback to December 2015, when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reached Islamabad for the Heart of Asia Conference which paved the way for a thaw in ties between India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic Lahore visit followed soon after, gave a substantive leg up to the bilateral relationship.


The journey of the conference has since reached Amritsar but not without major upheavals India has been at the receiving end of major terror attacks in Pathankot, Uri and Nagrota at the hands of Pakistan which uses its territory to provide safe havens to terrorists. Amritsar will host the Heart of Asia Conference over the next 2 days. Tension in the India-Pakistan relationship especially in the wake of the attack at an Army camp at Nagrota in Jammu and Kashmir could mean that the issue of terrorism may well be the dominant theme at the conference.


Pakistan will be represented at the conference by Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Affairs Advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The last Heart of Asia meet in December 2015 in Islamabad saw foreign ministers and foreign secretaries of both India and Pakistan holding discussions on the sidelines. Those meetings may not take place this time.


On Wednesday, India gave clear indications that it would adopt a tough posture on countries using cross-border terrorism as an instrument of state policy and ruled out talks with Pakistan in an atmosphere of continued terror. Amritsar is all set to host the two day conference beginning 3rd December. The focus of the conference would be on the peace process in Afghanistan, besides efforts to bring development and economic prosperity to it.


Terrorism in South Asia, development process in the region and regional prosperity would also be on the agenda of the conference that will be jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. Heart of Asia initiative started in Istanbul in 2011. At the heart of the initiative is to encourage regional efforts to assist Afghanistan. The Amritsar Declaration to be issued at the end of conference is expected to condemn those countries that sponsor terror and provide safe sanctuaries to terrorists. Foolproof security arrangements have been put in place for the conference with the deployment of 6 companies of Central Armed Police Forces and state police personnel.