The Heart of Asia conference has seen more productive years; when its members still had working relationships with each other, and international interest in Afghanistan was stronger. Yet the present one, held in Amritsar, could still have served as a platform to collectively address the task of rebuilding Afghanistan, and to mend these diplomatic breakdowns to some extent – even if there was a scant chance of that practically happening. However, the conference was spent deepening this divide and scoring political points, courtesy of the lead set by the Indian Prime Minister.

The Pakistani delegate to the conference, Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz, spent the moot holding out olive branches for his neighbouring countries to take, but none seemed interested. The Afghan President and the Indian Prime Minister both seemed intent on criticising Pakistan instead. Ashraf Ghani opened the conference by snubbing a $500 million pledge from Pakistan for development projects in Afghanistan, saying Afghanistan ‘needs aid to fight terrorism’, while Narendra Modi spent the entirety of his speech bashing “terrorism and its backers” – referring to Pakistan in all but name.

This desire to bash and humiliate seemed to be the driving force; reportedly Sartaj Aziz was ignored and seated apart from other delegates. This sort of petty antic may assuage Indian sentiments and appease domestic hawks in the context of the recent escalation of tension on the border, but beyond that it does nothing. The objective of the conference – finding ways in which regional powers can collectively help Afghanistan – is forgotten, and a chance at deescalating the situation is lost.

It is a shame to see that the only nation talking of conciliation is one that is not even directly involved in the conflict. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said at the conference that Iran is willing to mediate between Pakistan and India over the long standing issue of Kashmir.

While his offer is most welcome, the chances of the Indian administration accepting this offer is virtually zero. It has to be noted here that while India pulled out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit scheduled in Islamabad, Pakistan decided to go to Amritsar despite the expected hostile environment. It may not be leading anywhere productive, but the government must be lauded for sticking to its stance desiring peace and urging bilateral negotiation.

Once more, it is clear to see which side wants peace, and which side wants to fan the flames.