Pakistan feels the heat at Heart of Asia meet
Amritsar: Pakistan appeared isolated on Sunday at the opening of the Heart of Asia ministerial conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for strong collective action to defeat terrorist networks and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attacking Islamabad for providing sanctuary to terrorists.
Pakistan was defiant with its representative to the conference, Sartaj Aziz, calling for a holistic view on violence in Afghanistan “rather than blame one country”.
Forty-five countries and groupings participated in the meet aimed at helping war-ravaged Afghanistan in its political and economic transition. A regional counter terrorism framework aimed at binding commitments for tackling terrorism was however not passed by conference —it was referred instead to an expert committee.
Earlier in the day, Ghani set the tone for the meet with stinging remarks against Pakistan. Referring to a recent $500 million Pakistani pledge of assistance for Afghan rehabilitation, Ghani said: “This fund, Mr (Sartaj) Aziz, could be very well used for containing extremism, because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet needs of our people.”
Aziz is foreign affairs adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
To curb the activities of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Ghani proposed an “Asian and an international regime, whatever is accepted particularly by our neighbouring Pakistan, to verify cross-frontier activities and terrorist operations.”
“We do not want blame game, we want verification,” he said.
Ghani noted that 2015 had been a particularly bloody year for Afghanistan with the country suffering “the highest number of civilian casualties in the world…this is unacceptable…it can be avoided.”
Afghanistan blames Pakistan for supporting Taliban which made a comeback recently after US-led troops dislodged the group from Kabul in 2001 for sheltering al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Modi, who spoke after Ghani, did not refer to Pakistan by name but spoke of “making Afghanistan a Geography of Peace,” warning that “silence and inaction against terrorism in Afghanistan and our region will only embolden terrorists and their masters”.
On what more should be done to stabilize Afghanistan, Modi said the “question is of resolve and action. And, of putting Afghanistan and its people first.”
“For this, first, an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled process is key. It is the only guarantor of durability of solutions. Second, we must demonstrate strong collective will to defeat terror networks that cause bloodshed and spread fear,” Modi said.
“Terrorism and externally induced instability pose the gravest threat to Afghanistan’s peace, stability and prosperity,” Modi said adding separately that the threat has to be “backed by resolute action. Not just against forces of terrorism, but also against those who support, shelter, train and finance them.”
Describing the security situation in Afghanistan as “complex”, Aziz said it was “simplistic to blame only one country”.