AMRITSAR:  Amritsar nurtures an old and steadfast connection of warmth and affection with Afghanistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday said invoking the economic and spiritual links of the holy city, which is hosting the 6th Heart of Asia conference.

Inaugurating the conclave, he told the gathering about Amritsar’s role in prosperity of Afghanistan, underscoring that the city “reinforces the value of restoring connectivity which is crucial for the overall growth, stability and economic prosperity” of the war ravaged country.

Noting that the city’s character has been shaped by proud patriotism and generous philanthropy of its residents, he said, “Amritsar also happens to nurture an old and steadfast connection of warmth and affection with Afghanistan”.

Among the earliest disciples of the first Sukh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev, were Afghans. He had preached in Kabul in the 15th century, he said at the conference which is a platform to help Afghanistan in its transition.

The 6th Heart of Asia ministerial conference is being held at Amritsar, which is barely 20 kms from the India-Pakistan border.

“Even today, the shrine of an Afghan origin Sufi saint Baba Hazrat Sheikh in Punjab is revered by all faiths, including visitors from Afghanistan,” he said.

Mr Modi said that the flow of trade, people and ideas through the region has often intersected in Amritsar on one of Asia’s oldest and longest surface arteries the Grand Trunk road.

He defined residents of the city as people with spirit of enterprise, creativity and hard work.

Mr Modi begin his inaugural speech with “Namaskar and Sat Sri Akal”, the traditional Sikh greeting.

Welcoming the delegates to the holy city, he said that Amritsar is blessed with simplicity, beauty and spirituality, and is abode to the Golden Temple, the holiest shrines of Sikhs.

It is a place made sacred by Sikh Gurus who meditated here, he said adding that it embodied peace and humanism, and was open to all people and religions.

“Its streets and parks tell stories of great valour and immense sacrifice,” he said.

Talking about Amritsar, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the city used to be a centre of commerce and business which connected India to Central Asia, Russia and beyond.Mr Ghani visited the Golden temple last evening with Mr Modi.