India’s home minister to visit Pakistan next week

FO says Rajnath Singh will attend Saarc meeting; doesn’t rule out possibility of talks on the sidelines

Kamran Yousaf July 29, 2016
Rajnath Singh. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: India’s home minister will visit Pakistan next week to attend a ministerial meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Countries (Saarc) even as tensions persist between Islamabad and New Delhi over the situation in Kashmir.

““I understand that Rajnath Singh is coming” to attend the Saarc interior ministers’ conference scheduled for August 3 and 4,” Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria confirmed at his weekly news conference on Thursday.

Most terrorist attacks in India emanate from Pakistan: Rajnath Singh

Zakaria told reporters that no bilateral meeting between Rajnath and Pakistani authorities had been planned so far. However, he did not rule out the possibility of such meetings along the sidelines of the Saarc event.

“On such occasions, there is an expectation of meetings on the sidelines,” he said. The FO spokesman added that all issues concerning Pakistan and India, including Kashmir, will be discussed if any such meeting took place.

Separately, officials indicated that the Indian minister will likely have bilateral engagements with Pakistani officials to discuss the way forward for the current impasse in bilateral dialogue.

This will be the first high-level visit from India since last December, the country’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj travelled to Islamabad to attend a regional conference on Afghanistan. Her visit led to a breakthrough between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, which agreed to resume the stalled bilateral dialogue to discuss all outstanding issues including Kashmir.

However, the January 3 attack on an Indian airbase scuttled the peace process. More recently, tensions in Indian Kashmir have further diminished chances of resuming talks. Still, some observers believe that the ongoing tensions in Kashmir may force India to engage with Pakistan.

Even as the FO confirmed the Indian minister’s visit, Pakistan reiterated its call for an immediate end to the atrocities being committed by the Indian army in Kashmir. At least 52 people have been killed and thousands injured in police firing ever since the protests broke out in the valley following the killing of prominent Kashmiri leader Burhan Wani on July 8.

“We condemn killings and human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir. We also condemn the detention and house arrest of the Hurriyat leadership and urge the Indian government to release the Hurriyat leadership,” Zakaria said. He said for the last 68 years, the people of Jammu and Kashmir had been struggling for their right to self-determination as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir dispute.  “The Indian government has been indulging in state-terrorism as a tool to suppress the just struggle of Kashmiris,” he lamented.

He further said the solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute lies in the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions i.e. free, fair and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices to enable them to exercise their right to self-determination.

The drop scene of US-Pakistan relations

The spokesperson urged Facebook and other social media networking sites to be more ‘balanced and objective’ in its approach in dealing with international recognised disputes. “On the query regarding Facebook, I have seen the regrettable reports. This should be an eye-opener for the international social media organizations where their employees from India or other nationals of Indian origin are manipulating and violating the freedom of rights and expression,” the spokesperson said reacting to reports that Facebook censored certain posts supporting the Kashmiris in the face off onslaught by the Indian authorities.  “Facebook, as a neutral social media, should take note of such exploitation and take necessary measures including punitive action against such elements,” he stressed.

‘Man behind Jeddah attack not Pakistani’

The spokesperson confirmed reports that the suspect behind the US consulate attack in Jeddah was not a Pakistani, as reported earlier

“I am aware of the reports that the alleged terrorist was an Indian and not a Pakistani. I had also seen the initial inaccurate reports. That is why we do not usually comment on unconfirmed media reports. Such matters are dealt with by the Interior Ministry and you get further details,” he added.

Pak-US-Afghan talks on border security

Zakaria told reporters that representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US met in Kabul to discuss issues pertaining to Border Management and security.

He said this was the first interaction of DGMOs of the two countries at the technical working level since the setting up of high level consultation mechanism. The two sides welcomed creation of the mechanism and agreed for continued engagement. The spokesperson further said that this meeting took place because of Pakistan’s concern at cross border movement into Pakistan, which was responsible for the many terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

“Likewise, Afghanistan and the US have concerns regarding cross border movement from this side. Therefore, it was essential to evolve a mechanism to regulate cross border movement,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2016.


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