AMRITSAR, Dec 4 (APP)
The Heart of Asia Conference (HoA) Sunday called for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism in its all forms and manifestations and stressed on early finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism with consensus.
The ‘Amritsar Declaration’ issued at the conclusion of the 6th Ministerial Conference of Heart of Asia held in Indian city of Amritsar, also called for “dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism.”
The conference co chaired by Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister of India and Salahuddin Rabbani, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, recognized terrorism as the biggest threat to peace, stability and cooperation in the region.
The participants of the meeting called upon all the states to take action against the terrorist entities in accordance with their respective national counter terrorism policies, their international obligations and the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy 2006.
The participants recalled the five ministerial conferences in Istanbul (2011), Kabul (2012), Almaty (2013), Beijing (2014), and Islamabad (2015) and reaffirmed commitment to the principles, objectives, and outcomes enshrined in the declarations of HoA IP aimed at promoting regional peace and prosperity.
The HoA IP was reaffirmed as an important regional platform for political dialogue and close regional cooperation aimed at promoting stability, peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and the entire Heart of Asia region, and for enhancing Afghanistan’s connectivity with the entire Heart of Asia region.
The meeting commended countries in the region and beyond, particularly Iran and Pakistan, for their hospitality in hosting millions of Afghan refugees for over three decades and called upon them to continue hosting the Afghan refugees until their sustainable repatriation and reintegration in Afghanistan can take place in a
voluntary, safe, gradual and dignified fashion, in accordance with the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees to Support Voluntary Repatriation, Sustainable Reintegration and Assistance to Host Communities.
The conference urged the international community to provide generous support and targeted assistance for Afghan refugees, returnees and host communities in the region, with emphasis on youth, education and livelihoods.
It welcomed the Afghanistan Pakistan UNHCR and Afghanistan Iran UNHCR Tripartite Commissions on Voluntary Repatriation of Afghan Refugees from Iran and Pakistan, as vital steps in the Solutions Strategy, and supported the Final Statement of the UNHCR Executive Committee High Level Segment refocusing the international community’s attention on the Afghan refugee situation in this critical period.
The conference recognized the role of cultural heritage as a catalyst for social and economic development of the Heart of Asia region.
The participants reaffirmed commitment to the United Nations Charter and its enshrined principles of sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, sovereign equality of nations and non intervention in the internal affairs of other states as well as universally recognized principles and norms of international law.
The conference reaffirmed commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reiterated the importance of increased political dialogue and consultations between countries of the Heart of Asia region for a stable, peaceful and prosperous region.
It remained committed to resolving differences peacefully, and refraining from threat or use of force against the political independence, territorial integrity, or sovereignty of any state.
It was decided to work towards regional consensus on non interference in the internal affairs of other countries, which is critically important for good neighborliness between countries of the region, and for peaceful co existence as independent and sovereign nations, and re affirm commitment to these principles.
It was stressed to advance regional cooperation as an effective means to address common challenges and to promote security, stability and socio economic development in the Heart of Asia region.
The conference reaffirmed appreciation and expressed strong and unequivocal support for the ongoing constructive efforts of the Government of Afghanistan towards regional engagement and its commitment to building an increasing environment of trust and confidence throughout the region.
The participants appreciated the commitment of the international community for supporting the Government and people of Afghanistan and stress the crucial need for continuation of such support for achieving a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
The conference welcomed the assumption of full responsibility for security by the ANDSF and for their role in fighting terrorism and violent extremism in Afghanistan. The agreements were welcomed between the International Community and the Government of Afghanistan, and relevant decisions, which allow for continued financial support to the ANDSF until 2020 and assistance to them by the Post ISAF Mission, in support of long term security and stability in Afghanistan. Tributes were paid to the sacrifices made by the ANDSF and international forces.
The conference commended the European Union and Afghanistan for convening the October 4 5 Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, and recognize the importance of the development assistance commitments made by over 100 countries and international organizations, and of the Self Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) and its deliverables.
The international community was called upon to further strengthen international and regional cooperation towards sustained efforts for a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
The conference appreciated the continued efforts by the OIC and Afghanistan to convene the International Ulema Conference in Makkah, Saudi Arabia with inclusive representation of the Islamic countries and hope a positive outcome would contribute to lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The significance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and its subsequent resolutions on the role of women in conflict prevention, peace negotiations and post conflict processes in the Heart of Asia region, was recognized.
The participants expressed concern over 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 Qaida, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Mohammad, TTP, Jamaat ul Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist fighters.
Acknowledging the support that terrorism derives in the region, an immediate end to all forms of terrorism was demanded, as well as all support to it including financing of terrorism.
The conference commended the government of Afghanistan in successfully pursuing peace talks with Hizb e Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar resulting in the signature of a peace agreement that sets a good precedent for future peace talks with all other armed groups.
The declaration mentioning the challenges ahead recognized that terrorism, violent extremism, radicalization, separatism, and sectarianism and linkages among them were the gravest issues that the Heart of Asia region and the rest of the international community face.
The conference termed those a severe threat to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, economic development and bilateral and regional cooperation and renewed its strong commitment to strengthening comprehensive cooperation among the Heart of Asia countries and intensify efforts to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations through solidarity and collective action.
The Heart of Asia moot also vowed to introduce measures to curb the spread of violent extremism and terrorism.
“We recognize the necessity of taking serious measures to address recruitment of youth to extremist and terrorist networks.”
It noted that radicalization of disaffected elements of the population, especially youth, could only be prevented by effective de radicalization and counter radicalization strategies involving all the HoA countries.
To counter radicalization it was agreed to gather experts from the fields of security, education and local governance to meet in the first half of 2017 to identify key areas to be addressed for developing this regional approach and provide recommendations.
The declaration welcomed and supported Afghanistan’s initiative in taking the lead in exploring a regional counter terror strategy as agreed in Islamabad in December 2015.
The HoA expressed concern about the increase in production and cultivation of opium in Afghanistan, the volume of drug trafficking and demand in the HoA region and beyond. The meeting called for eradication efforts as it posed a threat to the socio economic development, security and stability not only in Afghanistan, but also in the surrounding region and the world as a whole.
“We also stress the urgent need to respond to the serious challenges posed by the nexus between revenue and its financial support for terrorist entities in Afghanistan, the Heart of Asia region and globally.”
In a measure to disrupt these links, the conference called for
increasing dialogue between their relevant ministries and agencies to tackle this menace.
The conference, while recognizing that a politically negotiated settlement remains important for durable peace in Afghanistan, reiterated support to the Government of Afghanistan in its efforts to advance an Afghan led Afghan owned peace process.
“We urge all Afghan Taliban groups and all other armed groups to enter into peace talks with the Government of Afghanistan.”
“While recognizing the importance of the contributions of neighbouring countries and regional partners in this process, we urge all those countries in the region and beyond who have leverages and influence to help bring the Taliban to the negotiation table,” the HoA declaration said.
The HoA conference during its deliberations on ways to achieving prosperity acknowledged the crucial role of Afghanistan as a natural land bridge in promoting regional connectivity and economic integration in the Heart of Asia region.
“We reiterate our strong support for Afghanistan’s efforts to use its geographic location to enhance wider regional economic cooperation.”
The moot welcomed the practical implementation of TAPI and completion of the first stage of the Asian International Railway Corridor between Imamnazar, Turkmenistan, and Aqina, Afghanistan—the initial stages of TAT linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
The conference also encouraged early implementation of the multinational energy and connectivity projects of CASA 1000, TUTAP, Chabahar Agreement, the Five Nation Railway, TAT linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan by rail, as it would forge economic connectivity and growth in the region.
It also welcomed the MoU on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
The HoA conference noted the ‘significant step’ taken by Afghanistan, Iran and India by signing their trilateral transport and transit agreement based on sea access through Chabahar. Once implemented, this corridor would provide additional and dependable access for Afghanistan and Central Asia to regional and global markets.
It was agreed to collaborate more closely in removing the non tariff barriers to trade, establishing and implementing bilateral and multilateral regional transit trade framework agreements. “In this regard, we stress on the urgent need to integrate, through the land route, South Asia and Central Asia through the expansion of existing bilateral trade and transit agreement both northwards and southwards,” the declaration added.
Recognizing the importance of the role of small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in the economic growth of individual countries and the region as a whole, the conference committed to undertake measures to strengthen the growth of SMEs, including women entrepreneurship, and their expansion across borders into other countries of the region.
In this regard, the members of the Trade, Commerce and Investment Opportunities CBM were tasked to explore measures, such as simplifying customs procedures, exchanging information on regional markets and
addressing tariff and non tariff barriers, and submit a report to the Senior Officials Meetings.
As part of the Confidence Building Measures, the HoA declaration reiteratied collective support to promote the implementation of six CBMs identified in the HoA IP and noted that a number of activities under various CMBs that were carried out since “we last met in Islamabad in December 2015.”
The HoA appreciated the valuable support of the international community to the HoA IP and in this regard called for looking forward to continued contributions of the supporting countries and organizations to realize the implementation activities prioritized under each CBM.
The conference concluded by tasking Senior Officials to hold the first 2017 SOM of this process, within three months of this conference. It welcomed the willingness of Azerbaijan to host the next Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process as Co chair in 2017.
It also welcomed the presence of guest countries Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia and Uzbekistan in the conference and noted their interest in the Heart of Asia Istanbul process.
The declaration was adopted in Amritsar by the foreign ministers and high level representatives of the participating countries of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Nations.
The declaration also has the support of international and regional organizations: Commonwealth of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Poland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Collective Security Treaty Organizations (CSTO), Economic Cooperation Organizations (ECO), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).