Finalising a counter-terror framework, ways to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan and boosting regional connectivity for the war-ravaged country’s economic growth were some of the major focus areas during first day’s deliberations at the Heart of Asia conference on Saturday, being attended by major regional and global powers.
The two-day annual conference, aimed at helping Afghanistan’s transition, began in this holy city amid soaring tensions between India and Pakistan with speculation rife on whether the two countries will have a bilateral engagement on the sidelines of the conclave.
Being attended by nearly 40 countries and leading groupings like the European Union, NATO and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the annual conference of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process is deliberating on various challenges facing Afghanistan, including revival of a peace process in the conflict-ridden country.
Pakistani Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz is representing Islamabad at the Ministerial conference on Sunday, which will be jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
On Saturday, senior officials of 14 member countries, including India, China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan, and representatives of 17 supporting nations deliberated on a vast range of issues facing the region including its complex security scenario and ways to deal with threat of terrorism, radicalisation and extremism.
In the meeting, delegation from Afghanistan pushed for a regional counter-terror framework with binding commitment by member countries to effectively deal with the terror networks. The country representatives also visited the Golden Temple and the Jallianwala Bagh.
Ahead of the conference, India and Afghanistan had called terror emanating from Pakistan as the ‘greatest threat’ to regional peace and stability, and both the countries are set to press hard for adopting the counter-terror framework at sunday’s deliberations.