The holy city is all set to host the 6th Heart of Asia ministerial conference beginning Saturday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani among top dignitaries scheduled to attend the event.
The two-day conference, which focuses on regional cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours to improve connectivity and tackle security threats, also assumes significance as Sartaj Aziz, adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, will be leading the Pakistani delegation.
Though no bilateral talks between India and Pakistan are scheduled on the sidelines of the conference, the participation of the Aziz-led Pakistani delegation is expected to help diffuse the ongoing tensions between the two countries.
Delegates from over 30 countries, including around 15 Asian nations, will be participating in the conference, whose theme this year is ‘Addressing Challenges, Achieving Prosperity’.
Foreign secretaries will have deliberations on Saturday while the ministers will attend the conference on Sunday.
PM Modi, President Ghani and Aziz will also attend the event on Sunday.
The focus of the event will be on regional issues, with a view to encouraging peace, political and economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours.
The ‘Heart of Asia—Istanbul Process’ was founded in 2011 and the first conference was held at Istanbul that year.
Meanwhile, Modi and Ghani are likely to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple. The PM may also visit the newly built Heritage Street and have dinner at the heritage village ‘Saada Pind’ on the Attari road.
This is for the first time that India is hosting this conference. Amritsar has reportedly been chosen as the venue as it is a connecting point of Asian countries and is close to Afghanistan. It is also learnt that the Modi government wants to bring such international conferences out of the national capital to showcase other Indian cities.
CITY TURNS INTO FORTRESS
The holy city has turned into a fortress with high security arrangements having been made for the high-profile event
Taking no chances, the administration has deployed 11 companies of the paramilitary forces and over 5,000 cops in Amritsar.
Almost all major hotels in the city have been booked and nakas set up all over the city. As Hotel Radisson is the main venue for the conference, it is being guarded very closely.
Hotel Taj Vivanta, where the PM will be staying, has also been cordoned-off and heavy security deployment has been made around it.
STRAP/BLURB PM Modi, Afghan President to attend event; Sartaj Aziz to lead Pak delegation, but no bilateral talks scheduled