The 6th iteration of the annual ‘Heart of Asia’ or HoA conference currently underway in the holy city of Amritsar witnessed unprecedented occurrences on the sidelines as well as in official protocol as Pakistan was squarely blamed for the wave of terrorism across South Asia, with international representatives of various countries blaming the beleaguered nation for harbouring, financing and sponsoring terrorism.
Sartaj Aziz, the de-facto Foreign Minister of Pakistan and a key adviser to Pak PM Nawaz Sharif, was in attendance when the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani raised the topic of terrorism, especially cross border terrorism, presumably from Pakistan. President Ghani stated that the Taliban was operating out of Peshawar and was ultimately wreaking havoc in his country. Afghanistan, the literal and physical heart of Asia, is the focus of the HoA 2016, with the stated objective of the rehabilitation of this long-suffering country. PM Modi also raised the names of terror outfits like the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Haqqani network, all of which are based out of Pakistan. This is the first time that such an assertion has been made at an international conference like the ‘Heart of Asia.’ This will obviously put the state of Pakistan on the mat, experts believe.
On the sidelines, reports are emerging that the Pak delegation, which was supposed to visit the historic Golden Temple of Amritsar, was taken aback when its leader, Mr Aziz was reportedly denied permission to accompany the others. No official notification or explanation was provided. This is being construed as a tit-for-tat measure for the incident in Pakistan a few months ago when PM Modi’s speech was censored on Pak state television. Foreign ministry officials on both sides are mum on this matter.
The Afghan situation is becoming more desperate with each passing day. As the influence of the Taliban waned, the ISIS or the Islamic State began gathering more attention and funding. Saudi Arabia has also been accused for funding this self-proclaimed Islamic State, although this claim has been repeatedly denied. The Taliban is looking to make a comeback, for lack of a better word. To garner international attention and support on this matter, the HoA was started in Istanbul, Turkey in 2011. This is the first time that India is hosting this conference.