New Delhi: Pakistan’s sustained support to ‘cross-border terrorism’ will be raised by Home Minister of India, Rajnath Singh, during his two-day visit to Islamabad to attend the SAARC ministerial conference on August 4.
During his stay in Pakistan, the minister will be representing India at the 7th meeting of SAARC ministers of Interior/Home, but there is no bilateral meeting scheduled with his Pakistani counterpart, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
This will be the first visit by any senior Indian leader to Pakistan after the Pathankot attack on January 2, which created tension between the two countries.
Asked specifically if the Home Minister will hold a bilateral meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Swarup said, “He is going for a multilateral event…There is no such proposal. He (Rajnath) is going for a multilateral SAARC event.”
According to sources in Home Ministry, Singh is expected to bluntly ask Pakistan to stop sponsoring ‘acts of terror; in India and also raise the issue of slow pace of probe into the Pathankot airbase attack, which was carried out allegedly by Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad, and the trial into the Mumbai attack case in that country.
On what kind of signal India, which has postponed the resumption of Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue in wake of Pathankot strike, was giving by sending the Home Minister to Pakistan, Swarup said, “Our participation is in the context of our ‘neighbourhood first’ policy and our commitment to regional cooperation within the SAARC framework.
“The meeting also provides an opportunity for us to underline the high importance we attach to achieving forward movement on security cooperation in the region.”
In previous meetings as well, India has participated at Home Minister and Home Secretary level, he noted.
He also reiterated that India wants a peaceful, cooperative relation with Pakistan and is prepared to discuss all outstanding issues with Islamabad in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.
It is incumbent on Pakistan to create such an atmosphere, he added while stressing that humanitarian issues such as fishermen are important to India.
Rajnath’s visit comes in the backdrop of growing strain in Indo-Pak ties after Pakistan and its Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made provocative statements on the Kashmir situation in the wake of Burhan Wani’s killing on July 8. Wani was a wanted militant Commander of the banned organisation Hizbul Mujahideen.
Not only did Sharif praise Wani but he also remarked that “Kashmir will one day become Pakistan”, a comment which evoked a sharp reaction from External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who said his dream of the state becoming a part of his country “will not be realised even at the end of eternity”.
Singh will be accompanied by Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and several other senior officers of the Home Ministry.
Key issues like fight against terrorism, illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and small arms and how to make coordinated and concerted efforts to combat such menace will figure in the SAARC meet.
The three-tier meeting will begin at the joint secretary- level on August 2 and then move on to Secretary and Home Minister-level meetings.
The meeting will also focus on strengthening networking among police authorities of SAARC member-countries and also enhance information-sharing among law enforcement agencies.