Conference stress enhanced cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the Heart of Asia region
ISLAMABAD – Dignitaries from Afghanistan, India, China, Turkey, Iran and other Asian countries called for enhanced cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the Asian region at the Heart of Asia conference.
The ‘Heart of Asia’ summit is jointly hosted by Pakistan and Afghanistan in Islamabad. The conference seeks peace and development in Afghanistan and regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism. The forum also seeks to promote economic development in the region and aims to encourage cooperation in curbing drug trafficking and other organized crimes in the region.
Afghanistan is gripped by insecurity 14 years after the United States and its allies attacked the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The 2001 attack overthrew the Taliban, but many areas across Afghanistan still face violence and insecurity.
Afghan-Pakistan support vital for regional peace, stability and prosperity
Speaking at the conference, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani stressed the need to recognize the increasing threat of terrorism. “If Al Qaeda is version one, Daesh is version six.” Al Qaeda, Daesh and terrorists from China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the Middle East are all, unfortunately, present on our soil .. We are the ones who are daily suffering some of the worst atrocities, including the butchering of our children and elderly” he maintained.
Connecting the recent terror incidents in Istanbul, Paris, Sharm-el-Shaikh and San Bernardino, Afghan President said, “We do have a problem. It is a global and regional problem it requires us to focus on it systematically and coherently.”
Ghani called for a mechanism of regional cooperation to examine “how the networks of terror coordinate, co-finance, what is their linkage with the criminal economy, how is radicalism shaping and maligning our holy religion and our opportunities for global engagement and dialogue.”
Afghan President opened his speech by expressing gratitude to Pakistan for “hosting millions of Afghan refugees over decades”. But he swiftly turned to the perils and origins of the refugee problem: “Unfortunately, recent events in Pakistan have forced us to host close to 350,000 to 500,000 Pakistani refugees on our soil. The refugee issue is a common issue, like other issues that confront us,” Ghani said.
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said that Pakistan and Afghanistan are vital to each other for peace, stability and prosperity. He called for a collective strategy for uprooting the menace of terrorism and extremism that threaten peace and security in the region.
Peaceful neighbourhood is a cardinal principal of Pakistan’s foreign policy
“Working for the achievement of a peaceful neighbourhood is a cardinal principal of Pakistan’s foreign policy. We firmly believe that peace is vital for development, and development is vital for durable peace” stressed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. While addressing the conference, Nawaz called for an intensification of efforts in order to “move forward from a conceptual domain to tangible landmarks for the implementation of concrete ideas, projects and visions in the heart of Asia.”
The prime minister recalled remarks he made during a visit to Kabul in May 2015: “The enemies of Afghanistan are the enemies of Pakistan.” He said the Pakistani government would continue to support an Afghan-owned and led peace and reconciliation process “which remains the most viable option to end violence and promote stability in Afghanistan”.
Pakistan’s PM also said Pakistan was committed to eradicating terrorism, violence and extremism from its soil, and that military operations Zarb-i-Azb and the National Action Plan were “delivering desired results”.
‘Regional cooperation needed to defeat terrorism’
During an introductory session of the conference on Tuesday, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai laid emphasis on regional cooperation for defeating terrorism. “In our view, closer regional cooperation can play an effective role in eliminating the scourge of terrorism,” Aziz said.
China’s FM calls upon all sides in Afghanistan to resume peace talks
China’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi called upon all sides in Afghanistan to resume peace talks at an early date in the larger interest of the war-torn country. He referred to the first round of Afghan government-Taliban direct talks co-sponsored by Pakistan, China and the US and described it as the most positive and meaningful process that needs to be pushed ahead.
He said that international community to respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and honour its commitment to help Afghanistan strengthen its capacity to develop and promote its security.
Iran FM urges to disrupt linkage between terrorism and narcotics
Speaking on the occasion, Iran’s Foreign Affairs Minister Jawwad Zarif said that terrorism, extremism and narcotics continue to threaten Afghanistan, the region and the whole world. He emphasised the need to disrupt linkage between terrorist network and narcotics as drugs constitute significant sources of funding for terror.
He also reaffirmed Iran’s support for the Afghan nation and government, stressing that all regional countries, including the Islamic Republic, will benefit from a secure, flourishing and self-sufficient Afghanistan.
Turkey will work for durable peace in the region: Turkish FM
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that his country will continue to work to create better understanding between Pakistan and Afghanistan for durable peace in the region. He said that terrorism, drug trafficking and human smuggling are serious threats to the region.
Indian FM Swaraj urges Pakistan, India to do business
In her speech, Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj focused on increased connectivity, regional trade and openness with Afghanistan, and also “extended India’s hand towards Pakistan” in this regard.
“It is time we [Pakistan and India] display maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other… the entire world is watching and we must not disappoint them.” Swaraj asserted that “India will extend its cooperation at a pace Pakistan is comfortable with… but let us direct our help to Afghanistan for now.”
Swaraj said connectivity also lies at the heart of India’s own efforts to push for regional economic cooperation. She also conveyed India’s willingness to join the Afghanistan-Pakistan trade and transit agreement.
“The heart of Asia cannot function if arteries are clogged.”
The Indian foreign minister singled out terrorism as the biggest deterrent to progress and peace in Afghanistan and said India was ready to help Afghanistan strengthen its defence.
US official urge for global support for Afghanistan
US Deputy Secretary of State Antony J Blinken said that all the world stand by Afghanistan against terrorism. He urged global community to increase financial support for Afghan security forces.
Saudi FM says Islam is a religion of peace
Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister said that Islam is a religion of peace and respects human life and dignity. He said that Saudi Arabia was among the first countries to have launched a campaign to fight against terrorism.
Kyrgyz FM calls on world leaders to work together to defeat terrorism
Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan Abdyldaev Erlan Bekeshovs said that terrorism and violence present urgent challenges and there is need to put aside our disagreements and work together under the auspices of the UN and other international organisations to defeat terrorism and extremism. He said apart from fighting terrorism, we should also focus on measures to prevent it.
Tajik FM stresses on social and economic problems in Afghanistan
Tajik Foreign Affairs Minister Aslov Sirojidin Muhridinovich said that lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan requires assistance in tackling economic and social problems. He proposed that the conference should identify concrete projects for economic development of Afghanistan and regional connectivity. He also called for fast-track implementation of CASA-1000 project.
Latvian official urge for stability and peace in Afghanistan
Latvian representative said we should redouble our individual and collective efforts to ensure a stable and lasting peace in Afghanistan. He urged the international community to increase economic and financial assistance for Afghanistan.