Heart of Asia conference was an initiative taken by Turkey in 2011. The idea was to bring together all the countries in the region to restore stability and economic growth in Afghanistan. Every year a conference is being held on the issue. Gradually, participation was extended to EU, UN, SCO, SAARC and other multilateral organizations.
This year the conference was held in Pakistan and next year India will host the conference.
India’s connectivity with Afghanistan can only be through Pakistan if we take land route. On sea route, we can reach west Afghanistan via Chhabahar Port and Iran. Of the two, the more practical one is the land route via Pakistan. But Pakistan has blocked this route for India. Trade and commerce between Afghanistan and India is at low due to this. Before 1970, Amritsar used to be the trade centre for Afghanistan’s fruits and dry fruits, which is not the case today.
India was the first country with which Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement.
India and Afghanistan share a common vision to see themselves as united, autonomous, independent and internally strong nations. Hence the ties are stronger between the two.
There are reports which suggest that there is a certain presence of ISIS in Afghanistan. This is a particular dangerous development for Pakistan. In the past few years, there is a growing sectarian polarisation in Pakistan. In fact, the Sunni Islamists in Pakistan are taking on harder Wahabism. The ISIS might take advantage in exploiting these differences.
In this context, India’s rapprochement with Pakistan via foreign ministers dialogue is a welcome step.