Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will jointly inaugurate the Fifth Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process Ministerial Conference in Islamabad on Wednesday, which is being preceded by the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) Tuesday.
Sartaj Aziz said in a press release: “We are looking forward to the participation of high-ranking delegations from 14 participating states, 17 supporting countries and 12 international and regional organizations. Foreign Ministers from ten countries have confirmed participation in the conference.”
The Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process was established in 2011 at the initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey. The main objective of the process is to foster efforts for regional cooperation and connectivity with a view to promoting long-term peace and stability as well as progress and development in Afghanistan, and the region.
However, Tuesday’s Senior Officials Meeting is expected to pave the way for Wednesday’s ministerial meeting.
Aziz said “Pakistan wants durable peace and stability in Afghanistan. Instability in Afghanistan is not in our interest. We will, therefore, continue to support all endeavors aiming at strengthening peace and security in Afghanistan.”
He went on to say: “As Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process is maturing, our focus has to be on strengthening our engagement and collaboration with a view to effectively combating the formidable challenges confronting the region, in the field of security as well as promoting regional economic interaction.”
“Conducive political and security environment is vital for promoting regional economic cooperation and connectivity. Our region is mired in dire security challenges which are hampering our socio-economic development. The theme of this Heart of Asia-Istanbul Conference – Enhanced Cooperation for Countering Security Threats and Promoting Connectivity in the Heart of Asia Region – is, therefore, pertinent to the needs of our region.”
He said: “Terrorism continues to be a major threat to global and regional peace. During the last few years, Pakistan has suffered huge human and economic losses due to this menace. Our resolute struggle against terrorism is now bringing the fruit of peace and prosperity to our people. In our view, closer regional cooperation can play an effective role in eliminating the scourge of terrorism.”
Aziz said: “I hope that your deliberations in today’s Senior Officials Meeting will encompass all these important dimensions and issues relating to peace and security, economic cooperation, and regional connectivity. I am confident that your valuable input to the Ministerial Conference tomorrow will contribute to the adoption of Islamabad Declaration stipulating concrete measures and actions for a deeper engagement amongst the countries of the Heart of Asia region.”
Wednesday’s ministerial meeting meanwhile is expected to adopt a forward looking Islamabad Declaration on Enhanced Cooperation for Countering Security Threats and Promoting Connectivity in the Heart of Asia Region.
The declaration would underline commitments from the Heart of Asia countries and partners for sustained efforts towards promoting peace and security, economic development and connectivity in the region.
Since the launch of the Heart of Asia process in Istanbul in 2011, the forum has continued to make good progress towards realization of its core objective of promoting durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.
There are 14 member countries involved in the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process. These are supported by 17 other countries and 12 regional and international organizations.
The member countries are: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the UAE. The United States, Japan, Egypt, the United Kingdom, France and Germany are among the supporting countries, while the UN, NATO, SAARC, SCO and OIC are among the supporting organizations.
Some alnalysts say the conference is also likely to focus on recommencement of dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the rise of Daesh in Afghanistan and Central Asia, and concerns over the threat it poses to the region.