The Heart of Asia conference focusing on Afghanistan is due to be held in the first week of December in the northwestern Indian city of Amritsar and Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the PM on Foreign Affairs, has said that he would probably be attending the conference, and hopes to diffuse the tension. However, there is no official meeting scheduled for talks over recent tensions between India and Pakistan.

Travelling to India will show Pakistan as being willing to trust the neighbour again, and Sartaj Aziz’s earnest effort must be appreciated. Though it is doubtful that any progress will be made in December, at least Pakistan is showing itself to be forgiving. While the SAARC conference scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November was cancelled due to India’s refusal, Pakistan is not answering in kind.

However, before the conference, the Advisor needs need to make somethings clear to India and Afghanistan. Firstly “détente” will only happen if India shows a clear will towards it and an invitation to talk. Pakistan cannot be seen as soft and mouldable, readily available at the table for Afghanistan, while its own issues are brushed aside by India and the international community. We have taken a lot of criticism over the repatriation of Afghan refugees when we have been more than generous for well over thirty years with them.

Secondly, the Heart of Asia conference must not turn into another instance where Afghan and Indian officials sling mud at Pakistan by calling Pakistan a terrorist state, or a sponsor of terror. No Pakistani representative must stand for this including Sartaj Aziz. We have invested too much time and effort into fighting terror, and our national loss is greater than any other country. This must be stressed constantly.

Diplomacy, on both sides, has failed to diffuse tensions in the past one year. It is unlikely that a conference on Afghanistan’s future can heal the wounds by the same methods of diplomacy we have been using since the Pathankot attack in January.