GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

All about Vienna Conventions

Vienna Convention can mean any of a number of treaties signed in Vienna. Notable are:

What is Vienna Convention?

Inked in 1961,Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR) is an international treaty accepted by 189 states. The VCDR refers to a framework for diplomatic relations between various independent countries. It specifies the privileges of a diplomatic mission that enable diplomats to perform their function without fear.

As per VCDR, certain individuals get diplomatic immunity depending on their rank and the amount of immunity they need without any legal harassment from the host nation.

How Pakistan violated Vienna Convention in Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case?

  • Without informing India about Kulbhushan Jadhav’s arrest: Pakistan clearly violated Vienna Convention by not informing of Jadhav’s arrest. Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer, had been sentenced to death last month by a Pakistani military court on grounds of spying. He was arrested last year but India was unaware about his arrest. On May 8, India contested the move and dragged Pakistan to the ICJ for refusing consular access to Jadhav and for violating the Vienna Convention on consular relations.
  • India was denied consular access 16 times by Pakistan: India is contending that Pakistan’s announcement of the death sentence was in contravention of Vienna convention on consular relations as India was denied consular access 16 times by Pakistan.

Vienna Convention on Consular Relations-

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 is an international treaty that defines a framework for consular relations between independent states. A consul normally operates out of an embassy in another country, and performs two functions:
(1) protecting in the host country the interests of their countrymen, and
(2) furthering the commercial and economic relations between the two states.

While a consul is not a diplomat, they work out of the same premises, and under this treaty they are afforded most of the same privileges, including a variation of diplomatic immunity called consular immunity.

Editorials, GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

The new game changer in Pakistan BY INSIGHTS · MAY 28, 2016

Summary:

Much hype has been created around the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, since it was announced in April 2015. It is a game-changer and is expected to transform Pakistan into an Asian Giant, say some experts in Pak. This gains even more prominence when contrasted to the $5 billion investment made by the U.S. in the period 2009-15 in Pakistan.

What is this project all about?

The 3,000-km corridor linking China’s far-western region to Pakistan’s south-western Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is massive project of road, rail, energy schemes, pipelines and investment parks.

  • The corridor is also expected to serve as a terminal for China to pump oil procurement from Persian Gulf. It is also being seen as a project to strengthen China’s connectivity with neighbouring countries and an initiative set to aid strategic framework for pragmatic cooperation between the nations.
  • The corridor would transform Pakistan into a regional hub and give China a shorter and cheaper route for trade with much of Asia, West Asia and Africa.
  • The corridor — expected to be ready in three years and provide about 10,400 MWs of electricity — gives China direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond.
  • The corridor will pass through Pakistan’s poor Baluchistan province, where a long-running separatist insurgency that the army has vowed to crush will raise questions about the feasibility of the plan.

Developments so far:

In this regard, China has signed 51 Memoranda of Understanding and projects worth $46 billion in sectors which include energy, infrastructure, security, and broader economic development. For energy, $34 billion investment has been envisaged and $12 billion in infrastructure projects. It is estimated that $15.5 billion would be spent on coal, wind, solar, and hydroelectric projects.

  • One of the key externalities to the Chinese investment is the fact that a “Special Security Division” of the Pakistan Army, consisting of perhaps 10,000 Pakistani troops and headed by a Major General, would be set up to guard the Chinese workers and their investment, particularly in Balochistan, given the militancy and insurgency in the province.
  • An important indicator of the work in progress is the huge Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) which has come into Pakistan over the last year. Pakistan has been an FDI-starved country for a host of reasons, but the first 10 months of the last fiscal year saw FDI increase by 5% on a year-on-year basis, to $1 billion, of which 55% came from China alone.
  • Also, China’s contribution to Pakistan’s FDI increased 152% over this period. The largest chunk of the FDI, 52%, has gone to the power sector, suggesting that work on CPEC-related infrastructure is underway.

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Concerns:

However, some experts have questioned whether the Chinese investment in the country represents Chinese strategic and economic interests solely focussed on what will benefit China, much more than it does economic investment which might be of some benefit to Pakistan in the end.

Also, even a year after the initiation of the CPEC project, there continues to be much ambiguity about what the $46 billion project entails. There is little public information and disclosure as to what will be built, how it will be financed, and who will implement the various parts of the corridor, which includes roads, railway lines, pipelines and other infrastructure.

Benefits associated with this project:

The present Pakistan government can gain much with economic development linked to the corridor taking off, offering far greater prospects for re-election in 2018 when some projects come on stream. The Pakistani military is also an obvious beneficiary with its role in security and with its fingers in numerous infrastructure and economic projects around the corridor. Also, some underdeveloped regions in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will also benefit.

India’s concerns:

China has maintained that it merely wants to develop infrastructure in the area without undermining India’s position on the Kashmir dispute. However, India has expressed its reservations to China over the project as it is laid through the PoK. But, China defended the project by saying it will help in the regional development.

Way ahead:

The development of the CPEC is not necessarily bad for India or the region. On the contrary, Pakistan’s young people who find meaningful work in the projects are unlikely to enter the jihad factories. India should also welcome the impending joint initiative by China and Pakistan to curtail terror groups along the corridor and in Afghanistan, provided the two countries are able to steer clear of an exclusionary agenda, limiting India’s legitimate interests in Kabul.

India should welcome this initiative. CPEC will no doubt boost Pakistan’s progress and prosperity. It will also help Pakistan tackle many social and other internal problems, including the menace of religious extremism and terrorism. It is in India’s vital interest to see a stable, prosperous, progressive, united and democratic Pakistan, which is at peace with itself and also at peace with all its neighbours.

Conclusion:

However, CPEC in its present form does not comprehensively capture the benefits of regional cooperation. It needs to be extended into landlocked Afghanistan, which is in urgent need of national reconstruction after several decades of war. It should also be extended into India through Kashmir and Punjab, the two provinces which are today divided between India and Pakistan. Its linkage with the Indian side of Kashmir is especially important. A better strategy would be to propose the construction of a sub-corridor bringing CPEC into the Indian side of Kashmir and beyond. In addition, sea transport linking Pakistan, the western coast of India, Sri Lanka, the eastern coast of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar should be strengthened.

Editorials, GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

A dispute that begs resolution (Sir Creek)

Article Link

The resolution to the Sir Creek dispute has been considered a low-hanging fruit for sometime now. The demarcation of the 96 km strip of water in the Rann of Kutch marshlands was one of the factors that contributed to the 1965 India-Pakistan war.

  • Pertinently, it is tied to the larger issue of delineating maritime boundaries and exclusive economic zones. That the creek has changed its course significantly over the years complicates matters further.

Background:

Sir Creek is a strip of area between Pakistan and India in the Rann of Kutch marshlands. It is situated in south east of Karachi, and divides the Kutch region of the Indian state of Gujarat with Sindh province of Pakistan.

  • Both countries have many creeks in the delta region such as Kajhar, Kori, Sir and Pir Sanni creek. The significance of Sir Creek is that it lies between the boundary of India and Pakistan. The far ends starts from Border Pillar (BP) 1175 and other end opens up into the Arabian Sea.
  • A dispute arose on the issue of drawing a dividing line between the two countries. The demarcation becomes significant when the line extends seawards to divide the sea boundary between India and Pakistan. The line then directly affects the division of sea resources including minerals, fish and other marine life between the two countries.
  • Going over to the history of this dispute, it is worth mentioning that the Bombay Presidency, a British Indian Province established in the 17th century, was divided into four commissionerates and twenty-six districts with Bombay city as its capital. The four divisions were Sindh, Gujarat, Deccan and Karnataka.
  • In 1908, the commissioner of Sindh brought to the notice of government, an act of encroachment on the part of Kutch State and Kutch Darbar was asked for an explanation by Government of Bombay. During several sessions and series of meetings, both representatives of Sindh and Kutch states were provided ample opportunity to explain their positions before final decision. In 1914, with Kutch Darbar awarding a triangular area to Sindh state in the north and some area to Kutch state in south, resolved the issue.
  • The boundary demarcation as per 1914 resolution was marked on the map B-44. To demark the boundary on land, 66 pillars were erected vertically and 67 pillars were erected horizontally. Last Border Pillar (BP) 1175 was at the far end of the Sir Creek and a green line was marked on the eastern bank of the Sir Creek.

During recent past history, the question of boundary in the Sir Creek region came up first time for discussion during 1969, when a delegation from the Government of India visited Islamabad for the purpose of actually settling the question of boundary alignment from BP 1175 to Mouth of Sir Creek opening up into the Arabian Sea. Since then twelve rounds of talks and three technical level meetings have been held in this regard but any success could not be met due to Indian evasive attitude.

Significance of this region:

The issue may not have risen, since the creek itself is located in the uninhabited marshlands, has limited military value but holds immense economic gain. The region being rich in oil and gas below the sea bed, control over the creek will add enormously to the energy potential of each nation.

How Convention of the Laws of the Sea has further increased the tension?

Initially territorial waters extended only till 12 nautical miles but since the advent of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal state can now have control over five sea zones: internal water, territorial sea area (12 nautical miles wide), contiguous zone (12 nautical miles wide), the (EEZ) Exclusive Economic Zone (200 nautical miles wide), the continental shelf (from 200 nautical miles up to maximum 350 nautical miles wide). The EEZ can thus be exploited commercially both for the undersea energy as well as nutrient sources.

  • The said Convention gives additional rights to both India and Pakistan over sea resources up to 200 nautical miles in the water column and up to 350 nautical miles in the land beneath the water column.
  • It also provides principles on the basis of which sea boundaries have to be drawn between the states adjacent to each other with a concave coastline. In short, the land boundary’s general course of direction on the land leading up to the coast can make a difference of hundreds of square nautical miles of sea when stretched into the sea as a divider between the said two states.
  • With the adaptation of 1982 Law of the Sea Convention by both countries, the governments have suddenly realised the enormous sea resources that can be lost or won on the basis of the land terminal point where the border between India and Pakistan ends. That is why Sir Creek has now become more contentious than ever before.
  • Besides, both countries are bound to protect their sea-lanes of communications and make efforts for increasing the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area through claiming Continental Shelf by submitting claim to UN Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS).

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Pakistan’s arguments:

Pakistan claims the entire Sir Creek based on a 1914 agreement signed between the government of Sindh and rulers of Kutch.

India’s arguments:

India contests Pakistan’s claim, stating that the boundary lies mid-channel of the Creek. In its support, it cites the Thalweg Doctrine in International Maritime Law, which states that river boundaries between two states may be divided by the mid-channel if the water-body is navigable.

Who is being affected?

The biggest casualty of not delimiting the Sir Creek is the incarceration of thousands of innocent fishermen from the border region who are routinely arrested and their boats and materials confiscated under the premise of illegal intrusion, even though there is no cognisable territorial and maritime boundary delimitation in the area.

  • These innocent civilians are deprived of their fundamental human rights. They are denied consular assistance; many are allegedly tortured and languish in jails while being subjected to horrible living conditions and without any meaningful access to judicial process.
  • Some prisoners go missing and may even be presumed victims of custodial killings. In goodwill gestures, some prisoners are fortunate enough to be freed, often in swaps.
  • Various studies have also shown that this region has become a safe haven for international drug mafia.

Why deadlock?

One of the chief reasons for the deadlock is that India wants the dispute resolved solely through bilateral dealings in the spirit of the Shimla Agreement of 1972, while Pakistan favours third-party involvement and wants to link the resolution of the dispute to contested territories under Indian occupation.

Options before both the countries:

  • Designating the non-delineated area — Sir Creek and its approaches — as a zone of disengagement or a jointly administered maritime park. Such a joint administration could see licensed fishermen from both countries fish in the area without fear of incarceration.
  • Alternatively, given the creek’s ecological sensitivity, both countries could designate the area a maritime sensitive zone. In fact, given the challenges posed by climate change, environment protection offers a significant opportunity for bilateral cooperation.
  • Another option available is the constitution of an arbitration tribunal under Article 287 (c) of the UN 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
  • The solution to the Sir Creek issue also lies in the adoption of the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914, which demarcated the boundaries between the two territories, included the creek as part of Sindh, thus setting the boundary line known as the “Green Line” or the eastern flank of the creek.

Conclusion:

Both India and Pakistan are passing through a crucial phase that offers huge potential for collaboration. While issues such as terrorism remain, the youthful demography of both countries holds out significant hope. The post-1971 generation in both countries is increasingly stepping into leadership roles. Unburdened by the baggage of history, and tackling issues on the basis of pragmatism, a paradigm shift in bilateral relations is within grasp.

Editorials, GS-3, Internal security, Uncategorized

A peaceful way out on Siachen

Why doesn’t India vacate Siachen? This question has been raised after every human tragedy on the glacier, and now it is being asked again when 10 soldiers lost their lives in an ice avalanche at the Sonam post.

  • It is not just avalanches; the challenging terrain of the glacier and its surroundings as a whole have been regularly claiming lives.
  • According to reliable estimates, over 2,000 soldiers from both sides have died on the Siachen glacier since 1984, when India beat Pakistan by a few days to occupy many of the strategic locations on the glacier.

Where is it located?

The Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalaya Mountains, just northeast of the point NJ9842 where the Line of Control between India and Pakistan ends.

  • At 76 km long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world’s non-polar areas.
  • It is situated at an average altitude of 5,400 meters above sea level.
  • It lies South of the great watershed that separates Central Asia from the Indian subcontinent, and Pakistan from China in this region. It lies between the Saltoro ridge line to the west and the main Karakoram range to the east.
  • The entire Siachen Glacier, with all major passes, is currently under the administration of India since 1984, while Pakistan controls the region west of Saltoro Ridge.

Background:

Ever since the two militaries began a costly engagement on the glacier, there have been numerous efforts by both countries to find a way to demilitarise the glacier. In June 1989, they came very close to clinching a final deal.

  • The two sides had agreed to “work towards a comprehensive settlement, based on redeployment of forces to reduce the chance of conflict, avoidance of the use of force and the determination of future positions on the ground so as to conform with the Shimla Agreement and to ensure durable peace in the Siachen area”.
  • Ever since then, India and Pakistan have tried diplomatically to find a way to demilitarise the region. However, a lack of political will on both sides has meant that the status quo holds, and soldiers continue to pay a very high price in that remote snowy outpost.
  • India has in the past suggested delineation of the Line of Control north of NJ 9842, redeployment of troops on both sides to agreed positions after demarcating their existing positions, a zone of disengagement, and a monitoring mechanism to maintain the peace.
  • Deeply divergent positions held by New Delhi and Islamabad on the dispute is one of the primary reasons why the negotiations on demilitarising the Siachen glacier and the adjoining areas have not progressed much.

About the conflict:

The conflict in Siachen stems from the incompletely demarcated territory on the map beyond the map coordinate known as NJ9842. The 1949 Karachi Agreement and 1972 Simla Agreement did not clearly mention who controlled the glacier, merely stating that the Cease Fire Line (CFL) terminated at NJ9842. UN officials presumed there would be no dispute between India and Pakistan over such a cold and barren region.

  • The conflict began in 1984 with India’s successful Operation Meghdoot during which it gained control of the Siachen Glacier.

Why India doesn’t want to leave this place?

The most obvious reason for India’s continuing presence at Siachen is its strategic importance. Military experts also believe that it drives a wedge between Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and China, and is the only tenuous link India has with Central Asia.

  • Other fears include the Chinese presence in the vicinity, concerns about a Pakistani incursion and the difficulty in retaking the glacier once gone.
  • India also insists that the present ground positions on the Saltoro ridge should be demarcated and authenticated on a map before any demilitarisation could be conducted, fearing that once India withdraws from the region, the Pakistan Army could occupy the high ground.
  • Moreover, India does not want a disagreement on the posts and locations to be vacated by the Indian side. This feeling has further strengthened after the Kargil intrusion by Pakistan.
  • India has therefore insisted that joint demarcation of the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) on the ground as well as the map should be the first step to be followed by a joint verification agreement and redeployment of forces to mutually agreed positions.

Pakistan’s arguments:

  • Presently, India is the occupying party in Siachen and hence, it should unconditionally withdraw and the pre-1984 status quo should be maintained.
  • By agreeing to a joint demarcation, Pakistan would be accepting the Indian claims in Siachen, at least theoretically.
  • Pakistan also feels that if it accepts such demarcation, it would amount to endorsing the Indian occupation of 1984.
  • Pakistan has therefore proposed that demilitarisation of the region, withdrawal of forces and authentication proceed simultaneously.

What can be done?

  • One, both countries can agree to a glacier of peace with neither side occupying it. Then there would be no strategic reason for soldiers to serve in such inhospitable terrain.
  • The second option is mutual withdrawal of forces without delineation and authentication. This is both undesirable and unlikely.
  • The third option is mutual withdrawal after jointly recording current military positions and exchanging them as part of an annexure without prejudice to each other’s stated positions, pending the final settlement of the Line of Control (LoC) and AGPL. This is perhaps the best option and takes on board India’s demand, and may not meet too much resistance from the Pakistani side given that they had agreed to it in 1992.
  • It can also be converted into an international destination for glacial research and other scientific experiments. International scientific presence would act as a deterrent against any potential Pakistani attempts at occupying the territory and it could also check the Chinese activities in the greater Karakoram region. This perhaps is the best option under the circumstances.

Way ahead:

Given Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal initiative to visit Lahore in December 2015 and to push forward peace with Pakistan, it would only be the next logical step to look at the low-hanging fruits in bilateral issues to build trust.

  • The demilitarisation of Siachen is definitely doable. This is not only because it is diplomatically possible, but also because there is a critical mass of opinion in both India and Pakistan that neither can sacrifice, or put in harm’s way, so many lives on the inhospitable glacier.
  • If the initiative is not seized by both sides now, the vagaries of nature will continue to exact a toll on forces deployed in Siachen, even if peace holds.

Conclusion:

It is important to recognise that just because we have militarily and materially invested in the Siachen region over the years or incur lower casualties than Pakistan, it does not provide us with a strategically sound rationale to continue stationing troops there, only to keep losing them year after year. The February 3 avalanche on the Siachen glacier that buried 10 Indian Army soldiers is a stark reminder to both India and Pakistan about the cost of military deployment in such inhospitable territory. While we as a nation remain indebted to our brave soldiers who laid down their precious lives on the glacier, there is neither valour nor glory in death due to cerebral edema or hypothermia, guarding a few kilometres of ice whose strategic value is ambiguous at best.

GS-3, International Relations, Uncategorized

(TAPI) Pipeline Project

 

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TAPI Gas Pipe line

Almost 25 years after its inception, finally physical work has been started on the $ 10 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Pipeline Project. Afghan, Pakistani and Indian leaders recently took part in the ground breaking ceremony of the 1,814 kilometres project that is due to be completed by 2019.

  • The pipeline, which will pass through Herat and Balochistan before reaching the Indian Punjab border, and will draw from the world’s second largest natural gas field of Galkynysh, comes full of promise.

Benefits of India:

  • It will bring India much needed energy at competitive pricing, and could easily supply about 15% of India’s projected needs by the time it is completed in the 2020s.
  • Energy is a growing need, and even if India is able to source energy from other countries like Iran and further afield, both the proximity and abundance of Turkmenistan’s reserves, that rank fourth in the world, will make it an attractive proposition.
  • This project also gives India an opportunity to secure its interest in Central Asia.
  • TAPI’s success will also ensure that India, Pakistan and Afghanistan find ways of cooperating on other issues as well.

Benefits for other countries:

  • Holding 4% of the gas reserves of the world, presently, Turkmenistan exports gas to only very few countries. But, with the TAPI pipeline, it will be able to diversify its exports to nations like India, Pakistan etc. Turkmenistan will also earn a lot of revenue by these exports.
  • The potential extension of the pipeline to the Gwadar Port in Pakistan will also enable Pakistan to export gas to several countries, thereby increasing its share of revenue.
  • Since the pipeline passes through Afghanistan, it will earn some revenue too in the name of transit fees.
  • This project could easily supply a quarter of Pakistan’s gas needs.
  • It will also reopen a historic route that reconnects South Asia to Central Asia, in the way it was before the British Empire sealed it off.

Challenges before the project:

  • The TAPI project crosses Afghanistan and Pakistan, the former deeply unstable and of uncertain future, the latter plagued by terrorist incidents and infested with militant groups that may find a gas pipeline easy pickings. Ensuring the security of those involved in the construction of the pipeline and then extending that security along its length once operational is going to be a challenge for all the signatories.
  • After its completion, maintenance in the presence of terrorist elements in Afghanistan and in the restive areas of Pakistan will also be a challenge.
  • Another critical issue is the fraught relations of Pakistan with India and Afghanistan.

Conclusion:

Turkmenistan has mind-boggling reserves of natural gas and it needs to export this precious commodity. Countries like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are facing a severe energy crisis and badly need such a resource to give an impetus to their ailing economies. It is important for these countries to increase cooperation and take decisive action against the terrorists who are the main hurdle to any peace and development process. If utilized properly, the gas reserves can change the destiny of the people of these countries. It is a win-win situation for all stakeholder states and they must make up for lost time to explore this channel of prosperity.

GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

Indo-Pak resume talk

Sushma Swaraj said  in Islamabad : “We have decided to restart the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. The dialogue that was earlier known as Composite Dialogue and later on as Resumed Dialogue will now be known as the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue.”download (1).png

The comprehensive bilateral dialogue will have all the “pillars” of Indo-Pak relationship and will include confidence building measures (CBMs), Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar barrage/Tulbul navigation project, economic and commercial cooperation, counter-terrorism, narcotics control, people-to-people exchanges. Two new pillars have been added — humanitarian issues and religious tourism.

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India and Pakistan will participate in another ground-breaking event: e $10 billion Turkmenistan, Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) project.

While the TAPI project has been discussed by Turkmenistan, which has the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas, since 1995, India only joined the project formally in 2008. The project has been stalled over the years over gas price negotiations, transit fees, and the problems of security in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tensions between India and Pakistan only added to the problems, and despite signing the ‘gas purchase agreement’ in 2010, the talks did not go forward.

“Unless the security situation in Afghanistan is stable, this project won’t work. Particularly with the splitting of Taliban, rise of the ISIS, and the government’s inability to exert control in the western and southern parts, which does not look likely to be resolved anytime soon,”

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India’s share of 38 mmscmd would account for about 25% of its current gas requirements. The 1800-km pipeline project contract would provide energy to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India for 30 years, with Turkmengaz extracting the natural gas at a shared cost from the Galkynysh field, the world’s second-largest reservoir of natural gas.

 

GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process

It was established to provide a platform to discuss regional issues, particularly encouraging security, political, and economic cooperation among Afghanistan and its neighbors.

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It aimed at enhancing security around Afghanistan and promoting economic development in that country. Apart from the immediate neighbours, the process has drawn in major countries that hem the region, including China and Russia, Turkey where the Istanbul Process originated, Iran and the major Arab states, twenty-five participants in all.

Afghanistan has never been an easy place to deal with, for itself and for its close neighbours, having experienced much turbulence through the attentions of powerful, aggrandizing countries in its vicinity, and through its own restless stirrings that have driven it to spread its wings abroad. The constant unrest within and warlike attention from without led it to be described in the colonial discourse as ‘the Cockpit of Asia’, forever wrapped in strife and rivalry. The term that now seems to have gained favour -‘Heart of Asia’ -is certainly more appropriate and makes due acknowledgement of the geographical significance of its location at the centre of the continent.

India-Afghanistan: Lack of a shared border after 1947 affected what used to be a flourishing traditional trade between the two countries but in the last few years they have collaborated with Iran in finding alternative access through Chah Bahar on the Gulf, so the trading prospects are much improved.

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India is now in a position to play a fuller part in international efforts like the Istanbul Process without running up, as it has so often in the past, against the barrier of Pakistan.  It can also have easier access to Central Asia and thereby contribute to the development of the region as a whole, so it is poised for a bigger role in the Istanbul Process.

The security-related aspect of the ‘Heart of Asia’ meeting is of direct interest to India, which is always eager to widen the international net against terror. This is an important unifying theme for the participants, for many of them have been subjected to terror attacks and would be ready to back better regional coordination in confronting the menace. India will no doubt have a leading role in this endeavour.

The impending ‘Istanbul Process’ provides an unexpected opportunity for putting the derailed Indo-Pak dialogue back on track; the conference has its own dynamic but what happens on the sidelines may well resonate louder than any other part of the deliberations so far as these two countries are concerned. At the same time, the conference provides an important forum for participants to agree on practical measures on their shared regional interests, especially the matter of terrorism. Region-wide cooperation on this is long identified as one of the key themes of the Istanbul Process, and should receive a considerable boost from the forthcoming meeting.