The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was founded in Istanbul in November 2011 to provide a platform for regional cooperation in the ‘Heart of Asia’ by placing Afghanistan at its centre. But, we know the centre of Asia, for now, is not Afghanistan, but Kashmir. Without a resolution of the Kashmir issue, the heart of Asia cannot beat.

Advisor to the PM on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, had stated on November 15 that he would attend the Heart of Asia conference, while pundits hoped that the conference would informally catalyse some talks between India and Pakistan especially after the SAARC summit in Islamabad was cancelled because of India. However, if Aziz goes to India, after the SAARC slight, as well as constant LoC violations by India, does it no show weakness from Pakistan? Additionally, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has spoiled any chances of an India-Pakistan meeting on the sidelines of the conference citing ill-health. What is the point of Aziz going, when his counterpart will be missing and the Indian External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup has reiterated India’s stated position that “talks and terror cannot go hand-in-hand”? The Advisor had better stay at home, and avoid looking too eager for India to throw a bone. Boycotting the conference, the way India boycotted SAARC may backfire, since Pakistan needs to show the international community its sincerity to Afghanistan, but our top diplomat should sit this one out, and send a competent substitute.

There is no potential for détente in the current context, and our diplomatic team must realise this and strategise to project strength at the conference. “Détente” will only happen if India shows a clear will towards it and an invitation to talk. Hoping for something at the “sidelines” is naïve.

Coming to the “Heart of Asia”, 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 too much criticism over the repatriation of Afghan refugees when we have been more than generous for well over thirty years with them. The conference must not turn into another instance where Afghan and Indian officials sling mud at Pakistan by calling Pakistan a terrorist state. No Pakistani representative must stand for this, including Sartaj Aziz.