NEWS

Deputy Foreign Minister Meets Turkish Ambassador

KABUL – Deputy Foreign Minister Idrees Zaman met Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Kabul Oğuhzan Ertuğrul.

Both sides talked about the agenda of the Senior Officials Meeting of the Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process that is going to be held in Ankara. They also called the Afghan Led and Afghan Owned Peace very important and discussed security and regional consensus in relation to the Afghan Peace Process.

India ready to join SCO after Member States Agree on Entry Procedure

MOSCOW – India will be ready to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a full member after the heads of member states agree on all the necessary procedures for its accession, Indian Ambassador to Russia Pundi Srinivasan Raghavan told RIA Novosti on Thursday.

India has been associated with the SCO as an observer since 2005 and we have stated that we would be willing to play a larger role in the organization as a full member. The SCO heads of states are meeting in September and we are hopeful that the organization will reach a consensus on its expansion process and procedures, Rashaan said.

According to the ambassador, despite India’s interest to join SCO, the heads of its member states have not agreed on the criteria for the potential entrants, their responsibilities and the procedure of entry itself.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was founded in 2001 by the leaders of Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its observer states include Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan.

The full interview with Indian Ambassador to Russia Pundi Srinivasan Raghavan is available at the RIA Novosti website,

www.ria.ru

Future of Afghanistan: Regionalism Is the Way Forward

ISLAMABAD – Diplomats and international security experts said that future of South and Central Asian regions depends on peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan of 2015 is different from the Afghanistan of 2001. The change was manifested in the recent presidential elections with turnout of over 60 per cent, and 38 per cent were women," said ambassador. -

They were speaking at a panel on Role of Afghanistan in Regional Security as part of the three-day Pathways to Sustainable Development conference, organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Wednesday.

US Institute of Peace South Asia Programme Director Moeed Yusuf said that Afghanistan was going to be dependent on international aid for the foreseeable future. The problem is that the international community is growing disinterested in Afghanistan and no new money is being pledged for the country.

He said most war funding would be diverted to address the new threat presented by Islamic State. With fading international assistance, Yusuf said the only option for Afghanistan was to connect with its neighbours. Regionalism works. The issue, however, is that Machiavellian politics dominate the minds of those who matter in this region.

Before commenting on the subject, Afghan Ambassador Janan Mosazai said that Afghanistan should be referred to as a country and not an issue.

The ambassador said that his country had undergone a profound change over the past 30 years. The Afghanistan of 2015 is different from the Afghanistan of 2001. The change was manifested in the recent presidential elections with turnout of over 60 per cent, and 38 per cent were women.

He said the new government in Kabul was keen to increase trade with Pakistan and the rest of the world. We are determined to revive Afghanistan’s role as a land bridge between south and central Asia.’

He said Pak-Afghan relations made more progress during President Ghani’s two-day visit to Islamabad than the last 30 years.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2014.

Co-operation in fighting Drugs and Exchange of information on drug traffickers and drug supply routes

ALMATY – Representatives of law enforcement agencies from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, met today in Almaty to discuss issues of co-operation in fighting drugs and the exchange of information on drug traffickers and drug supply routes.

The meeting was organized by the OSCE Transnational Threat Department's Strategic Police Matters Unit, the EU-funded project "Heroin Route II - Information Networks along the Heroin Route" and the Central Asian Regional Information and Co-ordination Centre for combating the illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors (CARICC).

Participants noted that the spread of illicit drugs, including heroin and cannabis from Afghanistan, is an issue of serious concern for Central Asian countries and one of the most profitable and dangerous forms of transnational organized crime.

At the opening ceremony OSCE Police Affairs Officer Mr. Valery Korotenko stated that "serious challenges and threats posed by links between illicit drug trafficking and terrorism, other national/transnational criminal activities and transnational criminal networks, require an increased regional co-operation between law enforcement agencies in order to counteract the flow of opiates and other illicit drugs along Northern Route".

The Joint Meeting is organized in accordance with OSCE Concept for Combating the Threat of Illicit Drugs and the Diversion of Chemical Precursors, adopted by the participating States at the Permanent Council in 2012 (PC Decision 1048).

This event gathers practitioners from senior and middle management positions of national law enforcement and drug control agencies, to focus on the practical implications of co-operation between law enforcement, improving information exchange and the planning of further joint activities.

Source: OSCE

Dialogue among cultures is a prerequisite for Asian Unity

DUSHANBE – President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, his participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe and his talks with the Chinese, Russian, Uzbek, Turkmen and Afghan presidents as well as the Indian foreign minister, a question will arise: How Asia is so important for Iran? And how Iran can play a vital and leading role in unification of Asia?

Recently, Iran has established the cultural coordination center for Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD). Iran believes that dialogue among cultures is a prerequisite for Asian unity. Iran believes that Asia is strategically important and due to its geopolitical importance, superpowers would like to have it under their hegemony. I am sure that if all the geopolitical factors and elements in Asia come together then the center for making decisions and mantle of leadership of the world would shift from Europe and America to Asia. If that happens the whole international system will change, and this change will surely dampen the spirit of expansionism. Therefore, they will try their best to mobilize all their sources to prevent this from happening.

Dialogue among cultures a prerequisite for Asian unity is thus very essential for initiating the idea of unity among Asian countries.

In the present age, the concept of sovereignty, national security, national interests and concerns has acquired a new dimension with wider ramifications and that is the reason why the definition of national security has been broadened to include ways and means to combat illegal production and trade of narcotics, the growth and menace of terrorism, the outbreak of diseases, environmental degradation, arms race, and spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The growing influence and domination of international organizations have also been included in this category. In fact, these are the regional and continental issues which call for cooperation among regional states. In other words, stability and security are matters of national concerns and it is in the interest of all concerned to address these issues in Asia.

The Asian community has its own identity, value-systems ad common destiny, facing new challenges as it goes. The recent political and economic developments and amazing breakthroughs made in science and technology have created a new world reality. Obviously, Asia cannot afford to stay isolated while these developments unfold themselves. The experiences of the past two centuries are reminders for all Asians that indecision, hesitation and antagonism can once again resurrect the evil of colonialism to the past centuries in a new and even modernized form.

Asian potential

In terms of geo-strategy, Asia has a unique status in the world. It has 60 percent of the global population and can provide the best manpower to the world. It occupies 33 percent of the earth’s space and is in top position among all the continents of the world.

They have enough subterranean sources. 75 percent of oil resources of the world are in Asia and natural gas and coal are in abundance. It is not only self-sufficient, but can also provide the needs of other counties. Japan and Asian marine countries have a prominent position in the field of international economy and commerce. India is fast developing and trying her best to occupy a prominent position in the globe. In the international trade, light and heavy industries, consumer products and extractable outputs, the Asian countries are entrenched in a competing position. This provides an opportunity and a ground for thinking seriously about the formation of the Asian economic market.

Obstacles & preventive measures

1- Geographical extension

2- It is obvious that there is an inverted relation between geographical extension of space with integrity and homogeneity of physical and human particulars. Thus, whenever geographical space is small, homogeneity of its particulars will be more pronounced, and vice versa. Therefore, in regional divisions, the Asian continent is divided into different parts and each part of Asia will possess the common particulars, which also will have the regional particulars.

2- Internal Disputes

In Asia there are disputes between some countries and that is so in other continents. There are some Asian disputes which seem to be internalized but have their impact on the region, like Afghanistan and Tajikistan. In the same way there are inter-state disputes which are visible in Caucasia, the Korean Peninsula and Indo-China, to name a few.

3- External Powers Domination

In the last few centuries, America and European powers expanded their domination and exploited the resources of Asia. They also established their direct and indirect presence in the continent. They know well, that Asia has geopolitical importance in today’s world. I repeat that if all the geopolitical factors in Asia are put together, then the geographical centre for decision-making and leadership of the world, would shift from Europe and America to Asia. In that case, the entire world equations and international systems will change.

It is quite obvious that American and European powers would not agree to this since they would be losing their hegemony on the world and therefore, they will try to thwart the whole concept of Asian unity.

4- Lack of trust

Asia needs confidence. Lack of natural trust is responsible for a number of conflicts in Asia. It also had a detrimental effect on commercial cooperation across the continent, and also hampered the efforts to achieve scientific and technological progress.

Fortunately, in 1990s we witnessed renewed efforts by Asian states to revive trust and confidence. Throughout this decade, a number of confidences building measures were taken to build mutual trust.

The formation of economic and commercial organizations such as ASEAN, SAARC, etc has been the vital instruments, paving the way for more cooperation and establishing confidence in the region. The population of the ECO and SAARC countries is about 1.5 billion. As many as 17 Asian countries are members of these two organizations. Thus, the possibility of establishing closer ties between the two organizations must be seriously explored.

Different scenarios for Asian unity

1- The geographical scenario

The geographical scenario veers towards the majority of Asian countries, coming together on the basis of common geographical territory. On the other hand, geography is the main axis of this unity. The scenario seems to be more idealist and may not be achieved in a short term. Yet, it could be a living example for our future generations.

2- The geopolitical scenario

This scenario is based on geopolitics. We observe that this continent can be divided into four geopolitical regions with some countries in a polar position. These regions are: East Asia, South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia.

3- Common stances scenario

On the basis of this scenario the first nucleus of the unity can emerge with the presence of some Asian countries that have common stances and views on the international and national affairs.

Then the other Asian countries can gradually join this unity. For example, the countries which have common views about the security of Asia, Asian economic common market, Asian common culture and so on, can serve as the very nucleus of this unity.

4- Dialogue among cultures scenario

Undoubtedly, in the contemporary sense and with the dawn of new millennium, the issue of the dialogue among cultures can serve as one of the most effective means for eliminating misconceptions, misunderstandings, miscalculations and mistrusts between the nations of the world. The issue of dialogue is a delicate one. It calls for great patience, tolerance and mutual respect.

The end of the Cold War has infused a sense of solidarity and calls for a commitment to respect for life, liberty, justice and equality and integrity that have yet to materialize. Interactions and achievements made amongst the world’s cultures, past and present, have gone on to create cultural pluralism and harness creativity in human diversity. The dialogue is, therefore, not only important for peace and harmony but is the very foundation of creativity and development.

To bring the hearts together, it is necessary for the minds to be brought closer. This can be done by special efforts of great thinkers to understand the great concepts and then try to communicate these to the people.

Asia is the oldest continent of the world with most ancient civilizations in its fold. The most notable schools of thought as well as the most significant ideological and religious movements were born in Asia: Buddhism in India, Zoroastrianism in Persia, Confucianism in China, Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Mesopotamia and the Arabian Peninsula.

Let us have a look at the main tenets in the aforementioned thoughts and religions.

Taoism preaches the virtues of a simple life and the denial of selfishness;

Confucianism’s emphasis is on moral and social order for society. It lays great emphasis on three relationships-between the ruler and subjects, father and son, husband and wife; Jainism’s true essence is Ahimsa or non-injury and this avoids hurting or killing of any object; Buddhism taught four noble truths:

1- Suffering 2- suffering has a cause 3- cause is a desire 4- it is possible to put an end to suffering if desire is removed.

Hinduism also emphasizes humanity, peace, and a uniform code of life.

Zoroastrian teachings are based on right vision, right word and right action.

Islam, Christianity and Judaism believe in God, life after death, and purification of man and society.

After going through different cultures (thoughts and religions) of Asia, from Ancient to the present, we witness harmony, respect for mankind and institutions, non-injury, removing suffering from life, encouragement of right vision and action, compassionate and as a whole, a system of values which all people in Asia believe in for a fruitful and constructive dialogue closer to their heart. We can call it Asian values system, something that can lead us towards Asian unity.

Counselor to the President John Podesta will lead a senior U.S. Government delegation to the "Heart of Asia"

WASHINGTON – Counselor to the President John Podesta will lead a senior U.S. Government delegation to the "Heart of Asia" conference October 30-31 in Beijing, China to discuss efforts in the region to expand political, security, and economic support for Afghanistan. The U.S. delegation includes senior officials from the National Security Council, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Following Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns attendance as Head of Delegation in 2011, 2012, and 2013, this high-level delegation demonstrates continued U.S. commitment to Afghanistan and regional stability.

China seeks role to Revive talks Between Afghanistan Government and Taliban

BEIJING – According to reports, Beijing has put forward a proposal for a peace and reconciliation forum in a bid to help revive peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban militants’ group.

The peace plan proposed by China would gather representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the Taliban command.

The Beijing proposal has not been formally announced by the government of Afghanistan but reports suggest that the plan was discussed at a recent meeting of nations taking part in the Istanbul Process.

In the meantime, aides to President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani have said that the President needs some more time to see whether the Taliban and Pakistan are willing join in.

Daoud Sultanzoy, a former presidential candidate and now adviser to President Ghani told Reuters, This was a very, very important first step.

He said, once all the pieces are in place at a mature and opportune time there will be declarations.

President Ghani is expected to visit Pakistan on coming Friday to hold talks with the Pakistani officials on bilateral issues between the two nations.

Efforts by Beijing to revive peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban group comes as US-led combat troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan after 13 years of war.

China is concerned that the withdrawal of bulk of the NATO troops will leave a security vacuum which would further help the Uighur militants to step up their fight as they seek a separate state in western China’s Xinjiang region.

Amid Afghanistan Transition, US reaffirms continued security assistance for Pakistan

WASHINGTON – As NATO forces transition out of Afghanistan, and a military operation continues along the Durand Line in Pakistan, the US on Wednesday briefed Pakistan about the evolving role of its troops over the next year and agreed to continue providing Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency requirements.

In a joint statement issued at the end of the 23rd meeting of the US-Pakistan Defense Consultative Group (DCG) in Washington from December 9-10, the two sides affirmed that bilateral cooperation was essential for promoting regional peace and stability and defeating al Qaeda and other terrorist elements in the region.

The DCG, a working group under the Strategic Dialogue framework, is a forum for exchanging views and coordinating defense policy with the goal of strengthening cooperation to support both countries security interests. The Pakistan side had been represented by Defence secretary Lt Gen Alam Khattak, while the US side had been represented by US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth.

During the plenary session, the delegations affirmed the significance of the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan. The US side noted that the operation has disrupted militants.

Both delegations reviewed the current trajectory of US-Pakistan relationship and concluded that it should continue. They reaffirmed their mutual commitment to a strong defense relationship.

The Pakistani delegation provided an update on its military campaign along its border with Afghanistan.

The US side briefed the Pakistani delegation on the security transition in Afghanistan, including US plans for training, advising, and assisting Afghan national security forces over the next year. Both sides expressed appreciation for the efforts by their respective militaries to improve operational coordination, and deep appreciation for the sacrifices of all military personnel and civilians.

They reviewed challenges facing regional security, and shared views regarding the importance of regional peace and stability.

Recognising the enduring security requirements on both sides of the Pakistan -Afghanistan border, the two delegations agreed to continue providing Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency requirements which will inform the provision of security assistance. In view of this, the two sides also discussed the importance of evolving a mechanism to reimburse Pakistan for operational expenses once the Coalition Support Funds expire at the end of fiscal year 2015.

The DCG had last met in November 2013 in Washington.

Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process senior official meeting held in Islamabad, Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – The Senior Official Meeting of the Heart of Asia/Istanbul Process co-chaired by Mr. Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Deputy Foreign Minister and Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Foreign Affairs, and participation of the representatives of member countries and organizations held today in Islamabad, Pakistan. Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Senior Official Meeting Holds in Islamabad.

At the outset, Mr. Karzai welcomed the participants and in part of his opening remarks he urged that, today our meeting is taking place at a critical juncture that our region faces array of daunting challenges including the growing spate of terrorism coupled with lack of potent infrastructure for socio-economic development.

While pointing out the necessity of joint struggle against terrorism, he added, In view of these challenges, we strongly believe that today, like never before regional and international circumstances require that we should redouble our collective efforts in the fight against the scourge of terrorism and extremism and their causes as well as to ensure the region with better stability and socio-economic prosperity.

In return, Mr. Sartaj Aziz said, The Heart of Asia process is a good platform for promoting regional economic cooperation and connectivity in the Heart of Asia region with inclusion of Afghanistan. This process provides opportunity for member countries to expand their result-oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, as well as take effective and efficient step towards creation of a secure and prospers region.

In the meeting, the participants also discussed on the draft declaration of the fifth ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia/Istanbul Process, which will be announced tomorrow.

The fifth Ministerial Meeting of the Heart of Asia/Istanbul Process which will be co-chaired by Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Foreign Affairs, is due to be officially kicked-off on Wednesday in Pakistan.

Seminar and field trip under the One Belt-One Road Initiative in china

BEIJING – The representatives of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process countries participated at the Seminar and Field Trip under the One Belt one Road initiative of China hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China on June 14 - 21, 2016. Delegates from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Tajikistan, Islamic Republic Pakistan, Republic of Turkey, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia participated at the program.

In this Seminar, statements highlighting the details of "One Belt One Road" delivered to the delegates. Delegates also visited china's most sophisticated infrastructures as part of the program.

Mr. Kong Xaunyou, Assistant Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, welcomed the Heart of Asia representatives at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China saying that this Seminar and Field Trip is honoring the promise made by H.E. Mr. Wang Yi, Foreign Minister of the People's Republic China, at the Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference held in Islamabad, Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 2015.

According to Mr. Xaunyou, the objective of this visit by the Heart of Asia countries as the pioneers of the Ancient Silk Road, One Belt-One Road initiative is to discuss the start of a regional dialogue to pave the way for the implementation of this initiative. He described the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process as a good initiative for the stability and development of not only Afghanistan but the whole region through regional cooperation.

Mr. Xaunyou continued that One Belt-One Road initiative was proposed by H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China in 2013. The proposal received very well by 70 countries, regional and International organizations and they also pledged full support for the initiative. This initiative would revive the Ancient Silk Road and will continue to connect East Asia, Central Asia, South Asia and Europe.

Mr. Amir Mohammad Ramin, Director General of Regional Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, express his gratitude to Mr. Xuanyou and the People's Republic of China for the invitation and maintained that one aim of the Heart of Asia Process, as a regional platform, is to connect the countries of Heart of Asia region. He also added, "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and a member of the Heart of Asia process- will support the One Belt-One Road initiative and the revival of the Ancient Silk Road".

At the end the representatives of the Heart of Asia process visited Shaanxi and Xinjiang provinces which are deemed as the origin of ancient Silk Road and the One Belt one Road initiative cities.

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