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Editorial: Heart of Asia

The Heart of Asia summit kicked off on Saturday in New Delhi. The participating countries would give positive signals regarding Afghan peace process and development of the war-hit country. However, Afghans are not optimistic about the result that they already know. The terrorism-hit nation sees Pakistan as the root cause of violence as Pakistani officials have acknowledged in different occasions that they support the Afghan militants in order to secure the narrowly defined interests. The biggest interest is revolving around Indiaphobia. Islamabad is afraid of growing friendly relations between Afghanistan and India. Afghans believe that Pakistan would not pay heed to the teachings of their own national poet and hero, Muhammad Iqbal Lahori, who said that Afghanistan is the heart of Asia. According to Iqbal, peace in Afghanistan is vital for regional stability.

The conference in India will not yield positive results if Afghanistan was not seen and treated as an independent and sovereign country by the participants, especially Pakistan. Moreover, rivalries between South Asian states should not target Afghanistan’s development and stability for point scoring. Use of the Heart of Asia summit as a platform for political point scoring and leg pulling will neither benefit Afghans nor the region. Decision of Pakistan to attend the multilateral global conference on Afghanistan is commendable. However, mere participation and consoling statements would not turn the table.

As a first step all the participating countries should approve the draft on joint action against terrorism that the Afghan government has circulated to the attendees. If the conference is on Afghanistan and every participant truly wants to support Afghan-led peace process then there should be no problem in approving it. Seriousness of the participating countries is imperative to prevent South Asia from becoming a battleground that would demand more heads of our children. Resources that are spent on proxy wars and propaganda can change fate of the poverty-hit South Asians.

Second, Pakistan shall treat Afghanistan as an independent country and stop supporting the insurgent groups as a parallel government. It should provide a foundation conducive to productive relations with Kabul. The ball is in the court of Pakistani civilian and military establishment. Likewise, the other attendees must emphasize on joint fight against terrorism. They shall build consensus on jointly targeting sanctuaries of terrorists—wherever they are in the region.

Tougher sanctions should be imposed on the actors that use militants as a foreign policy tool. Only statement will not placate the situation. The fire that is burning Afghan cities will soon engulf innocent civilians and security personnel in Iran, Russia, China and other countries if Afghanistan was not heard and helped. Thus, more responsibilities fall on Moscow and Beijing to target the sources from where terrorism and extremism emanate. The Asian countries shall join hands for their own survival because the deadly terrorist organizations would soon knock on their doors.

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