NEW DELHI: The Heart of Asia conference concluded in Amritsar on Sunday on an unhappy note for Pakistan, which was criticised roundly as a base for militant groups whom the conference statement described as a big threat to peace and security in the region.
The statement named Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Haqqani group as posing threats to region together with other groups fomenting terrorism in the neighbourhood and beyond.
Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz countered the claim, calling the criticism ‘simplistic’.
However, there was relief for Pakistan as the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan too came up for criticism together with Jundullah.
Pakistan was also applauded for hosting Afghan refugees for three decades. Mr Aziz also found occasion to briefly exchange pleasantries with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meeting with a clutch of other foreign ministers.
“We remain concerned by the gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan in particular and the region and the high level of violence caused by the Taliban, terrorist groups, including ISIL/DAISH and its affiliates, the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP, Jamaatul Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist fighters,” the statement said.
Acknowledging the support that terrorism derives in the region, the statement demanded an immediate end to all forms of terrorism, as well as all support to it, including financing of terrorism.
“We recognise that terrorism is the biggest threat to peace, stability and cooperation in our region. We encourage the international community to continue to assist the government of Afghanistan.”
Mr Aziz said his attending the Amritsar meet despite ‘escalation’ along the Line of Control was testimony to Pakistan’s ‘unflinching’ commitment for lasting peace in Afghanistan.
He expressed unhappiness over cancellation of Saarc Summit in Islamabad in November, terming it a setback to regional cooperation.
Indian reports noted he did not mention the issue of Jammu and Kashmir but a closer read of Mr Aziz’s comments reveals a nuanced mention of the dispute as disrupting peace. He also finessed the recent Afghan talks with the Hizb-i-Islami group of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as a good beginning for widening the outreach to other groups.
Noting that Pakistan was aware of the serious challenges Afghanistan was facing, Mr Aziz said: “The first and foremost in our view is continuing violence and acts of terrorism claiming scores of human lives. This needs to be addressed urgently and effectively through collective efforts. The security situation in Afghanistan is very complex.
“It is simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view.”
Lauding the leadership of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Mr Aziz said Afghan security forces had firmly and bravely stood their ground in repulsing militant and terrorist attacks. “We would do whatever we can to help achieve this objective.”
The Afghan government, Mr Aziz said, “has also signed peace agreement with Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan. The implementation of this peace deal can serve as a model for talks with other insurgent groups in future.”
The peace process for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban has not yet produced positive results, Mr Aziz noted, adding that the option needed to be explored in a sustained way.
“In our view, there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and all our efforts should be to achieve a politically negotiated settlement through an Afghan-led Afghan-owned process.”
It was over the demands for regional connectivity and trade that Mr Aziz seemed to insert the core issue of Kashmir albeit without digressing from the main theme.
“Pakistan is committed to enhancing facilitation for transit of Afghan goods through Pakistan. We believe the two sides need to work together for extension of and improvements in the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement. In this context, let me emphasise that peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes will further improve prospects of regional cooperation and connectivity.”
The comments acquired importance in the wake of reports that India and Afghanistan were pondering an air trade link to bypass the land route via Pakistan.
courtesy: dawn news