The Heart of Asia initiative for peace in Afghanistan
The Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process is a regional initiative of Afghanistan and the Republic of Turkey, which was launched on 2nd November 2011 in Istanbul, with the motto “İSTANBUL PROCESS ON REGIONAL SECURITY AND COOPERATION FOR A SECURE AND STABLE AFGHANISTAN”. The process aims to promote regional security, economic and political cooperation centred on Afghanistan through dialogue and confidence building measures (CBMs).
The conference was inaugurated by the then Presidents of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Republic of Turkey with the foreign ministers of the participating countries, delegations of supporting countries and regional / international organisations in attendance.
The next conference was held in Kabul on 14th June 2012 and the participating countries prioritised 6 areas for regional cooperation and confidence building measures. The participating countries voluntarily assumed the role of lead and co-lead for each CBM with other nations expressing their interest to act as supporting countries for each CBM. Afghanistan is the permanent Co- Chair and coordinator of the process with the support of other participating countries.
Since its inception in the year 2011 the HoA – IP has held 7 ministerial conferences hosted by different countries of the Heart of Asia region.
The participating nations of this regional group are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Uzbekistan.
Indian Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar spoke at the 9th Heart of Asia ministerial conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on 30th March, 2021 before an august gathering. His key takeaways were:
For a durable peace in Afghanistan, what we need is a genuine ‘double peace’, that is, peace within Afghanistan and peace around Afghanistan. It requires harmonising the interest of all, both within and around that country;
If the peace process is to be successful, then it is necessary to ensure that the negotiating parties continue to engage in good faith, with a serious commitment towards reaching a political solution; and
Today, we are striving for a more inclusive Afghanistan that can overcome decades of conflict. But that will happen only if we stay true to principles that Heart of Asia has long embodied. Collective success may not be easy but the alternative is collective failure.
This statement says it all. Peace around Afghanistan is only possible if Pakistan army and ISI being taken care of. Without making them accountable permanent peace won’t happen at all.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is also attending the conference and the participation of both the ministers at the conference has sparked speculation of a possible meeting between the two leaders amidst recent peace overtures from Pakistan.
Pakistan PM has written a letter to the Indian PM and it has been received by India. Qureshi, however, clarified that no meeting has been “finalised or requested”, so far with his Indian counterpart on the sidelines of the conference in Dushanbe.
Even Jaishankar last week did not give a specific reply to questions on whether he will meet Qureshi on the sidelines of the conference. “My scheduling is in progress. So far I do not think any such meeting (is scheduled),” he had said.
The author also tweeted and enquired, whether the meeting will happen or not, but the reply is not received. The 9th Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) ministerial conference is part of the Istanbul Process – a regional initiative on security and cooperation for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan – that was launched on November 2, 2011, in Turkey, but gets rotated in other capitals too.
My hunch is that meeting will take place as one of the mediator nation is also participating in Dushanbe!