Heart of Asia senior officials’ meet gets underway

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New Delhi, April 26 (IANS The senior officials ‘ meeting on the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process co-chaired by India and Afghanistan got underway here on Tuesday.

The Heart of Asia Istanbul Process is aimed at bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“Standing shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan. Hosted by India, Heart of Asia senior officials meeting gets underway,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted.

Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai are co-chairing the meeting.

In statement on Monday, Swarup said that India is actively participating in all the six confidence-building measures (CBMs) under this mechanism. These are: counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, disaster management, education, regional infrastructure and the trade, commerce and investments (TCI) CBMs.

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India leads the trade, commerce and investment opportunities CBM, which is implemented by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) under the guidance of the external affairs ministry and the department of commerce.

Besides India, the Heart of Asia initiative involves 13 other countries — Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz republic, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates.

The first foreign ministers-level meeting of the initiative was held under the aegis of the “Istanbul Conference for Afghanistan: Security and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia” that was convened on November 2, 2011, in Istanbul.

The second conference was held in Kabul in 2012, the third in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 2013, the fourth in Beijing in 2014, and the fifth in Islamabad on December 9, 2015.

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India hosted the senior officials of the process in January 17, 2014, here and is set to host the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia process in the last quarter of 2016.

The three key elements of the Heart of Asia Process are: political consultations, involving regular meetings at the foreign ministers level; CBM implementation, involving a sustained, incremental approach to implementation of the CBMs agreed at the Istanbul conference; and synergy among regional organisations, involving participation of all regional organisations on a single platform with the goal of bringing greater coherence to the various initiatives and processes.

Apart from the 14 countries directly participating in the conference, there are 17 supporting countries — Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Britain, the US and the European Union (EU) – as well as 11 regional and international organisations supporting this process.

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These include: the UN, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).



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