Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh reached Islamabad Wednesday to attend the SAARC Interior Ministers’ conference. While Singh was flown in a helicopter to Serena Hotel in Islamabad, which is also venue for Thursday’s meeting, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif raised the Kashmir issue. Speaking on the eve of the conference, he said, “Today Kashmir is witnessing a new wave of freedom movement.”
Sharif, who will inagurate the conference, asked Pakistani diplomats to apprise the world that Kashmir was “not an internal matter” of India. In Islamabad, roads leading to Serena Hotel have been heavily barricaded by police and paramilitary forces to ward off any threat from terror groups. LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin had warned of a countrywide protest in Pakistan if Singh arrived in Islamabad to attend the conference.
Despite tight security, around a hundred people gathered outside the hotel and raised anti-India slogans and protested against Singh’s visit. Before leaving New Delhi, Singh tweeted, “Leaving for Islamabad to attend the SAARC HM Conference. This Conference provides a platform to discuss issues pertaining to security.”
“Looking forward to underscore the imperative of meaningful cooperation within the region against terrorism and organised crime,” he added. Singh, who is on his maiden visit to Pakistan, is accompanied by a delegation comprising officials from Home and External Affairs ministries.
Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, who reached Islamabad Tuesday, led the Indian delegation at the SAARC meeting of home secretaries. The three-tier meeting began at the joint secretary-level and is moving on to the Secretary and Home Minister-level. According to Home Ministry officials, terror threat to South Asia, visa problems and illegal arms and drugs trade are among issues that will be discussed at the conference. Ways to increase collaboration between police and security agencies of SAARC countries and enhance intelligence sharing will also be on the agenda.
There is little possibility of Singh having a bilateral meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the wake of strained Indo-Pak relations after the killing of Hizbul militant Burhan Wani in Jammu and Kashmir on July 8. Besides praising Wani, Sharif had also said 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”.