Home Minister Rajnath Singh arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) interior ministers' meet. The Union minister had earlier announced that he would be focusing on Dawood Ibrahim — designated a global terrorist — and cross-border terrorism.
Pakistan: Home Minister Rajnath Singh at SAARC Home Ministers Conference, in Islamabad. pic.twitter.com/THA36u9gCX
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Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif speaking at SAARC Home Ministers' Conference in Islamabad (Pakistan) pic.twitter.com/DAZsHnFEuL
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Just ahead of the meeting, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi announced that there would be no bilateral meeting between Rajnath and his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. However, Rajnath along with his counterparts from Saarc countries will call on Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Speculation was rife ahead of his visit on how the countries would discuss the prevailing violence in the Kashmir Valley after the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. The home minister had earlier blamed Pakistan for the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir and had said that terrorism in India is "Pakistan-sponsored."
"Kashmir is India's crown (mukut). It is heaven and the neighbouring country is keeping an evil eye on it. I am hopeful that the pride of Kashmir will be restored," he had said. Even a spokesman of the US State Department had described Kashmir as an internal matter for India.
Ahead of Rajnath's visit Islamabad, Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed had asked the Pakistani government not to allow Rajnath to visit Pakistan and has warned of a nationwide protest if Singh does visit the country. In fact, a group of All Parties Hurriyat Conference workers held a protest in Rawalpindi against Rajnath Singh's arrival in the country. Mishal Malik — the wife of Yasin Malik, chairman of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front — also led a token protest against Rajnath's visit in front of the National Press Club.
Although the Pakistani prime minister promised the highest security for the Indian minister, he made a provocative statement just ahead of the meet. Emphasising that Kashmir is "not an internal matter" of India, he said, "Today, Kashmir is witnessing a new wave of freedom movement."
"This movement is running into the bloods of third generation of Kashmiri people and the world has itself seen its intensity in the wake of 8 July," Sharif said, referring to the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani in Kashmir.
"The Kashmiri youth are writing new chapters of sacrifices to get the right to self determination," he said. "They have lost eyesight due to bullets but the desire for freedom is guiding them to the destination," he added.
He asked Pakistani envoys to apprise the world that "the Kashmir was not an internal matter of India". "The ambassador should make the world feel that Kashmir is not the internal problem of India, as India already accepted it as dispute territory and the UN also declared it as a dispute between India and Pakistan," he said.
"We cannot afford a conflict. If we became part of any conflict, then our progress in the social and economic fields would be affected," he said. He said Pakistan wants peace in the world on the basis of honour, dignity and equality. "But our desire for friendly ties should not be considered as weakness. We believe in mutual interests, respect for sovereignty and non-interference in the affairs of others," Sharif had said.
Before leaving for Islamabad to attend the day-long conference, Singh had said he was "looking forward to
underscore the imperative of meaningful cooperation within the region against terrorism and organised crime."
"This conference provides a platform to discuss issues pertaining to security," Singh had said, who is also expected to tell Pakistan to stop sponsoring terror in India and rein in groups like Lashker-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
With inputs from agencies