Saarc meet set for failure as Pakistan sticks to Kashmir issue

04 August 2016

Union home minister Rajnath Singh, now in Islamabad attending a meeting of interior ministers of Saarc countries, is unlikely to make any breakthrough in India-Pakistan relations as Pakistan looked set to play up its Kashmir concerns than engaging any fruitful discussions among his South Asian counterparts.

This was very much evident when Rajnath Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan greeted each other with the briefest handshake - their hands barely touched - before the Indian home minister moved to enter the conference hall.

The Indian press was also deliberately kept well away from the meeting hall, leading to an argument between a senior Indian and Pakistan official, says a report in The Telegraph.

Khan claimed Pakistan was "committed to Saarc processes, and, desires to see it as a successful regional organisation".
"We must do a reality check of what we have achieved so far and what still remains. It is time for us to seize the moment, to leverage our potential and overcome our choices," he said.

"We have made substantial contribution towards various Saarc processes and have taken a number of initiatives in furthering the goal of close regional integration," he said.

Rajnath Singh arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) interior ministers' meet amidst a spike in cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan that has already vitiated the atmosphere in Kashmir.

The union minister had earlier announced that he would be focusing on Dawood Ibrahim, a designated a global terrorist, who is actively supporting terrorist elements in Pakistan in their cross-border terror strikes.

Ahead of his departure for Islamabad, Rajnath Singh had blamed Pakistan for the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir and had said that terrorism in India is "Pakistan-sponsored."

Speculation was also rife that the two countries will discuss the prevailing violence in the Kashmir Valley after the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

But, 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 other Saarc countries will call on Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

"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.
Islamabad also got some support from a visiting Turkish minister who said Turkey has always been on Pakistan's side on the issue of Kashmir. But a spokesman of the US State Department described Kashmir as an internal matter of India.

Elsewhere in Pakistan members of the terror groups Jamaat-ud-Dawah led by India-baiter Hafiz Saeed is leading protests against Rajnath's visit. A group of All Parties Hurriyat Conference workers held a protest in Rawalpindi against Rajnath Singh's arrival in the country.

Mishal Malik, wife of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik, 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."

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.

But, that is unlikely to be considering the prevailing atmosphere in Islamabad.

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