The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 and the participating countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates.
Three pillars of this conference process are:
• Political Consultations: Political consultation involving Afghanistan and its near and extended neighbours
• Confidence Building Measures (CBMs): Areas for CBMs identified in the Istanbul Process document are Disaster management, Counter-terrorism, Counter-narcotics, Trade, Commerce and Investment, Regional infrastructure, and Education.
• Cooperation with Regional Organizations
Key Highlights of the Sixth Conference
a) Menace of terrorism dominated the Amritsar meet
o Amritsar Declaration named the terrorist organisations that are jeopardising the security situation in Afghanistan:
– This was a big blow to Pakistan as almost all the terrorist organisations which are named in the declaration are based in Pakistan.
– The declaration mentions two groups targeting India, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, in addition to the Haqqani network, among the organisations causing a “high level of violence” in Afghanistan and the region.
b) A regional approach to eliminate terr
orism is suggested:
o It included dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism.
o It also includes tapping the capacities of political and religious leaders, civil society, mass media and social networks in the fight against terror.
c) The declaration asks for early finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism with consensus.
d) For the first time, a Heart of Asia declaration has expressed concern at the violence caused in Afghanistan and the region by groups like al-Qaeda and Daesh, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad etc.
e) The declaration has spoken of the dangers emanating from the increase in production and cultivation of opium in Afghanistan, the volume of drug trafficking and demand in the HoA Region and beyond.
f) Afghanistan rejected Pakistan’s offer of $500 million for reconstruction of Afghanistan, and advised it to use the money to counter terrorist activities emanating from Pakistan.