New Delhi, April 25: India hosts for the first time the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process conference aimed at bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

“India is actively participating in all the six confidence-building measures (CBMs) under this mechanism, namely, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, disaster management, education, regional infrastructure and the trade, commerce and investments (TCI) CBMs,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said on Monday.

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

Apart from 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.

Apart from the 14 countries directly participating in the conference, Australia is among 17 other supporting countries that include Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Britain, the US and the European Union (EU).

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.

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

The three key elements of the Heart of Asia Process are:

  1. political consultations, involving regular meetings at the foreign ministers level;
  2. CBM implementation, involving a sustained, incremental approach to implementation of the CBMs agreed at the Istanbul conference; and
  3. 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.

11 regional and international organisations are also supporting this process, including 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).

Feature image: Afghan security force members inspect the site of a deadly attack in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, on April 19, 2016.

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