The 5th Heart of Asia - Istanbul Ministerial Process Conference was held for two days in Islamabad, Pakistan from December 9, 2015. The conference was inaugurated jointly by the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. It was co-chaired jointly by Mr. Salah Uddin Rabbani, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Foreign Affairs. The event was attended by high-ranking delegations from 14 participating states, 17 supporting countries, and 12 international and regional organizations. The foreign minister Sushma Swaraj led the Indian delegation. She said that she had come with a message to move forward. The focus of the conference was on Counter Terrorism, Counter Narcotics, Disaster Management, Education, Trade and Investment and Regional Infrastructure.

As usual, Kashmir, the real Heart of Asia, considered by one and all as the Nuclear Flashpoint of Asia was nowhere in the picture! The maximum one could hear is that India and Pakistan have decided to resume their bi-lateral dialogue. However, there is no mention of Kashmir in the deliberations!

The regional initiative supported by certain western powers including USA owes its origin to Turkey. It was in November, 2011 in Istanbul that the initiative under the title of Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was started to provide a platform to the countries in the Asian region to discuss regional issues relating to security, political, and economic issues so as to bring co-operation between Afghanistan and its neighbours.

It was intended to be an initiative for regional co-operation among the Asian countries. Afghanistan has been a battle ground for proxy wars between the two leading super powers of the world. First the Russians came in and the Americans ensured their ignominious retreat from there which ultimately resulted in the break-up of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Americans had trained and armed the guerrillas which defeated the Russian forces. Later on these American trained warriors including the famous Osama bin Laden turned against the Americans. Americans came in with the multinational forces. However, they failed to totally subdue the Afghanis and had to leave.

Their exit is still going on. The tussle about the area is because of its strategic location. It is a neighbour to the Central Asian Countries and Iran. The fires lit by Americans spread into the Middle East which is now in total turmoil. The Indian sub-continent seems to have lost the interest of Americans and they are trying to use it as a lever to control Afghanistan.

Kashmir had a similar situation in forties. Here again the two super powers indulged in proxy wars using India and Pakistan as their pawns. Those days there was direct confrontation between these super powers. The Anglo-Saxons had identified Kashmir as the most important strategic corridor to check the advance of the Russian Empire.

It was because of this they had separated Gilgit and converted it into Gilgit Agency. Before partition an important meeting was held in Paris between George Marshal and Ernest Bevin in which the importance of keeping the Gilgit corridor under their control was discussed. They had felt that it would be better to keep Gilgit in Pakistani controlled area. After the breakup of Soviet Union they lost interest. However, now a new factor has come in. China is building a corridor to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean! US interest now is to contain China. Pakistan they are trying to use as a buffer for Afghanistan. India has now only economic value for them. A huge market for American products, both lethal and non-lethal.

Kashmir has been a real heart-ache for entire South Asia for last 68 years while as Afghanistan came into limelight as a trouble spot only in seventies. The real trouble started there after the Soviet intervention of 1979. The whole area was destroyed. There were indiscriminate killings. Millions of refugees came into Pakistan. Along with the refugees came violence and the young Taliban trained in Pakistan and infiltrated into Afghanistan to drive out Russians created people like Osama bin Laden who had volunteered for Jihad from Saudi Arabia and was trained by Americans. Ultimately, he paid them back in kind!

In contrast, Kashmiris as a nation have been suffering for last more than four centuries under external oppression. The last 25 years have been the worst. Almost a hundred thousand Kashmiris have been killed. There are over forty thousand widows, a hundred thousand orphans. Thousands of women have been raped and molested. Thousands of houses and other structures have been destroyed. Over 8,000 persons have disappeared without a trace. There cannot be a worst tragedy than this. Still the guardians of human rights led by the western powers do not consider Kashmir to be the real “bleeding” Heart of Asia! It seems the west is now totally sold to material considerations and has forgotten the finer qualities of life of which they were proud at one time. They need to understand that Kashmir is the real powder keg which can someday blow away entire Asia including the so called Heart of Asia, Afghanistan!