“Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process” (HoA-IP) is a joint initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey, announced 10 years ago at the 2011 conference in Istanbul. This initiative is aimed at strengthening regional security, economic and political cooperation with Afghanistan through dialogue and confidence-building measures. Within the framework of this joint initiative, a regional dialogue began with cooperation to combat common threats, including terrorism, drugs, poverty, and extremism [Yusupov, 2021]. This brief review will analyze the current state of this initiative after the meeting of foreign ministers in the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, and the prospects for the process of resolving the Afghanistan crisis with the participation of the international community during the Istanbul Peace Conference.
Geographically the Heart of Asia initiative includes 15 countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates. It is one of the largest regional associations in the world with a total geographic area of over 40 million km2, covering about 27% of the Earth’s land area. A stable Afghanistan serves the interests of all countries in the region. This was stated by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking at the 9th conference of foreign ministers “Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process” in Dushanbe on March 30, 2021. The President also said that regional consensus on this issue is vital for Afghans and expressed his hope that the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process conference will end the ongoing 42-year war in Afghanistan [Amuyeva, 2021].
However, according to the UN, today the number of people in need of assistance in Afghanistan has grown from 9.4 million to 18.4 million compared to the beginning of last year. Forty percent of the population – 17 million people – is on the verge of hunger. Almost half of all Afghan children suffer from wasting [UN News, 2021].
The lack of peace agreements between the Afghan government and the Taliban could mean the continuation of the civil war in the country, which has already claimed the lives of millions of its citizens and turned millions of others into refugees. The economy, infrastructure, industrial, scientific and cultural potential of the country over the past 42 years of constant conflict have been almost destroyed. That is why Turkey’s initiative is gaining such importance in this situation. The Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process has become an important element of regional cooperation since its inception due to the engagement in constructive dialogue and addressing existing and emerging regional problems through local cooperation with Afghanistan. It has become a platform for Afghanistan’s neighbors, both near and far, for international supporters and organizations. This process is based on three main pillars: firstly, political consultation – to build and strengthen confidence in the region, secondly, confidence-building measures – to resolve specific issues within 6 priority areas of cooperation and, thirdly, cooperation with regional organizations – in the areas of security, economic interactions, and relationships between people. The Heart of Asia – The Istanbul Process consists of four main governing bodies: ministerial high-level conferences, senior officials ‘meetings, ambassadors’ meetings and regional technical group meetings.
On March 30, in the capital of Tajikistan – the city of Dushanbe, the ninth ministerial conference “Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process” was held under the title “Strengthening Consensus for Peace and Development”. During the Ministerial Conference, opening speeches were made by Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan and Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, who both noted the need for a regional consensus and its vital importance for Afghans. In the Dushanbe Declaration, representatives of the participating countries, supporting countries, regional and international organizations identified the most important and urgent problems for the region: the fight against international terrorism, the fight against drugs, the problem of refugees and repatriates, issues of economic cooperation and further confidence-building measures.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also stressed the fact that the agreement between the United States and the Taliban, signed in Doha, unfortunately did not end the violence and did not contribute to a ceasefire in Afghanistan. It was decided that the next meeting on Afghanistan will be held in Turkey, where, as expected, the Roadmap for a political settlement will be formed. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, leader of the Islamic Society Party Salahaddin Rabbani believes that the Istanbul Peace Conference, unlike the previous negotiation processes, is expected to involve not only representatives of the Afghan government, but also leaders of political parties, which will lead to more significant results [Khodaiberdi et al., 2021].
Since the fall of the Taliban, Turkey has placed Afghanistan at the top of its development cooperation agenda. Taliban pledged to participate in peace negotiations and prevent al-Qaeda structures from being present in areas they control [BBC News, 2021]. Turkey’s priorities are to rebuild a war-weakened society, provide basic services, create a new system respecting fundamental freedoms, and restore internal order. Afghanistan can play the role of the crossroads of Asia, and good relations between the countries of Asia are crucial for the development of Afghanistan [Amuyeva, 2021]. All people have the right to enjoy the benefits of world wealth; to fight global problems and poverty – this is the common interest of all people in the world. It is also a moral duty of the world community. A development paradigm is needed to achieve sustainable, equitable, and balanced growth for all.
Amuyeva, Ülviyya (2021). Ghani: A Stable Afghanistan Will Bring Tremendous Benefits to the Entire Region. Retrieved from www.aa.com.tr/ru/мир/гани-стабильный-афганистан-принесет-огромную-пользу-всему-региону-/2192442. Accessed on 12.04.2021.
BBC News (2021). War in Afghanistan: Biden Announced the Withdrawal of American Troops Before 9/11. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/russian/news-56740974. Accessed on 17.04.2021.
Khodaiberdi, Sayed Sadat, Ekip, Ekberova, Elmira (2021). Istanbul Conference – Hope for Peace in Afghanistan. Retrieved from www.aa.com.tr/ru/мир/стамбульская-конференция-надежда-на-мир-в-афганистане/2196139. Accessed on 12.04.2021.
UN News (2021). Afghanistan: Pandemic, Economic Crisis, Violence. Retrieved from https://news.un.org/ru/story/2021/02/1395682. Accessed on 17.04.2021.
Yusupov, Abdulrahman (2021). The Conference “Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process” Will be Held in Dushanbe. Retrieved from www.aa.com.tr/ru/мир/в-душанбе-пройдет-конференция-сердце-азии-стамбульский-процесс-/2190849 . Accessed on 12.04.2021.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Nadirova Gulnar Ermuratovna graduated from the Oriental Faculty of Leningrad State University, in 1990 she defended her thesis on the Algerian literature at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, in 2006 doctoral thesis - on modern Tunisian literature at the Tashkent Institute of Oriental Studies, Professor.