‘Heart of Asia’ meet to target Pak. on terror

Prime Minister Narendra Modi serves langar during his visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Saturday, the eve of the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference.   | Photo Credit:

India and Afghanistan are once again expected to try to pin down Pakistan on terrorism at the Heart of Asia conference beginning here on Sunday. The two countries are expected to try for a draft declaration in stringent language against “cross-border terrorism” and “sanctuaries for terror groups”.

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are scheduled to inaugurate the conference jointly.

Bilateral meeting

Mr. Ghani and Mr. Modi will hold a bilateral meeting, their fourth this year. The two leaders are expected to discuss enhancing India’s military assistance to Afghanistan, the development of Iran’s Chabahar port for trade and an “air cargo” agreement to work around obstacles posed by Pakistan to transit trade.

At the conference, Afghanistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai urged countries to adopt a “Heart of Asia counter-terror strategy”.

“Terrorism endangers the stability of the region and poses serious obstacles to the implementation of our key regional projects. That is why there is an urgent need for a unified HoA approach to fight this menace,” Mr. Karzai said at the meeting chaired by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar.

India and Afghanistan’s counter-terror proposals to corner Pakistan may face some pushback from close allies of Pakistan such as China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, diplomats present at the conference said, but the cooperation between both countries was on full display in Amritsar.

On Saturday night, shortly after they both landed, Mr. Modi and Mr. Ghani visited the Harmandar Sahib Golden Temple together, where the Prime Minister served “langar” or food cooked in the communal kitchens to pilgrims gathered. They then proceeded to a local restaurant, “Sadda Pind”, for the official dinner hosted by Ministers of State M.J. Akbar and V.K. Singh.

After the conference and bilateral meeting between Mr. Modi and Mr. Ghani on Sunday, a joint press conference will be held by Mr. Karzai and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is officiating on behalf of an unwell External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Significantly, shortly after his arrival in Amritsar, Mr. Sartaj Aziz sent a bouquet to Ms. Swaraj’s residence in Delhi to wish her a speedy recovery. It was after Ms. Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad for the previous Heart of Asia conference that India and Pakistan restarted their dialogue, which was then cancelled after the Pathankot Air Force base attack.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 5:59:38 PM |

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