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Sartaz Aziz

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Two points on which the Heart of Asia Conference revolves are : cross border terrorism in India by Pakistan and the participation of Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistan Prime Minister’s advisor on foreign affairs, secondly, the Islamic State attacks in Afghanistan when 60% of the country is under Taliban. 

As India hosts the Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar on December, senior officials from 14 countries including China and Pakistan will participate. In this meet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold one-to-one discussion with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani where there is an apparent nexus between the Islamic State and Taliban and the latter controls 60% of Afghanistan. India has completed the delivery of the final Mi-24 gunship to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) to arm the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) with more lethal weaponry. 

Adviser Aziz announced that he would participate in the conference as Pakistan supports any initiative aimed at bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and that it would be a “good opportunity” to “defuse the tension” between the two neighbors. 

In spite of the fact that northern Afghanistan has strong presence of ISIS jihadists, President Ashraf Ghani also traveled  to the Caspian Sea and gave an oblique hint of having cultural and ethnic  relations with the Muslim population of Caucasus countries which are controlled by Russian minority population. Russia will also watch their interests in a prominent way.

The Afghan leadership therefore harbors ambitions about Caucasus as well as is showing itself to tackle ISIS-Taliban nexus. 

Afghan officials have decided to ask China to play a lead role in the region for development and infrastructure purposes while proposing India to play a developmental role in the education sector. 

Further elaborating his government’s stance, Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali said, “Afghanistan is no longer a landlocked country in the practical sense of the term. In recent months, we have entered into several connectivity projects including Chabahar (that connects India with Kabul via Iran) and initiatives that will link our nation with Central Asia and Black Sea. 

Ghani after assuming power in Afghanistan made clear his vision of including Caucasus region of Russia in the purview of Afghanistan connectivity and thus proximity to European markets. Meanwhile, Ghani appealed to the US to re-examine the 2016 timetable for withdrawing the remaining US led coalition troops from Afghanistan. But US-President elect Donald Trump policy on Afghanistan will be outlined after his inauguration in January 2017 with a hint that countries will have to foot their bills themselves for their security. 

While accusing Pakistan of interfering in Afghanistan, Abdali said that Heart of Asia governments had agreed that implementation of non-interference in Afghanistan requires “resolutely combating  and eliminating terrorism and dismantling terror infrastructure and acknowledging that terrorism is a threat to international peace and security.” 

As India is witnessing terror attacks from Pakistan it also desires examination of terror activities and infrastructure from Pakistan and Sartaj Aziz will have to respond to India’s concerns in this regard.

This is one of the crucial meeting where India and Pakistan are participating as in August 25, 2014 the Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary level talks were called off after High Commissioner Abdul Basit held meetings with Kashmiri Separatists leaders where after terror attacks in India like in Udampur, Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Uri were witnessed.

Article Courtesy : Arti Bali, Senior Journalist & Analyst