Odishatv Bureau

Istanbul: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday boycotted the speech by Indian Minister V.K Singh over Kashmir at the Heart of Asia Conference here.

As soon as Singh started speaking at the Heart of Asia Conference, which aims to promote durable peace and stability in Afghanistan, the Pakistan Foreign Minister left his seat and walked out of the conference.

He boycotted the Indian minister's speech in a mark of protest over India's move to revoke special status for Kashmir, according to tweets posted by Pakistani officials from the venue.

In September, Qureshi had similarly boycotted Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's speech at a SAARC ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

As soon as Jaishankar had got up to speak, the Pakistani minister left the room. Once Jaishankar finished his address and left, Qureshi had made his re-entry.

Earlier on Monday, the two-day Eighth Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process was inaugurated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani.

Erdogan, in his address, said there is a need to support Afghanistan in its difficult times.

The theme of the conference is 'Peace, Partnership and Prosperity'.
The initiative "aims to enhance regional cooperation towards Afghanistan," the Turkish foreign ministry said.

During the meeting, Turkey will hand over its co-chairmanship, which it assumed in 2017 at the 7th Ministerial Conference in Baku, to Tajikistan.

The Heart of Asia -- Istanbul Process -- is a regional initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey, that was launched in 2011.

It has two chairs with Afghanistan as the permanent chair, and a co-chair from among the member states that shifts each year.

"The process aims to promote regional security, economic and political cooperation centered on Afghanistan through dialogue and confidence-building measures," according to the organization's website.

The first ministerial conference of the Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process was in 2011.

The event is being attended by the foreign ministers and high-ranking representatives of 15 participating countries, 16 supporting countries and 12 supporting regional and international organizations of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, according to a statement.

The conference will adopt and issue a declaration with renewed commitments to the visions of the process.

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 and its "core objective" is to promote "durable peace and stability in Afghanistan."

The members are Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkey.