Amid Kashmir tensions, India’s Rajnath Singh to visit Pakistan for SAARC meet

rajnatheeAmid a blistering war of words between India and Pakistan over the shimmering unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh will fly to Islamabad to participate in a SAARC meeting, brightening the prospects of a likely visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Pakistan for the SAARC summit later this year.

Rajnath Singh will attend the meeting of home ministers/interior ministers of SAARC countries in Islamabad on August 3-4. This will be the first visit by an Indian minister to Pakistan after the January 2Pathankot airbase attack, perpetrated by Pakistani militants, which has stressed ties between the two nuclear-armed subcontinental neighbours.

Rajnath Singh’s visit comes amid a fierce verbal duelling between the two countries, with India accusing Pakistan of fomenting violence in Jammu and Kashmir, which has killed over 45 people and left hundreds injured.

In the strongest statement yet, India hit out at Pakistan’s embrace of terrorism and underlined that the dream of Pakistan of acquiring Jammu and Kashmir will never be “realised till eternity.”

“Behind Pakistan’s unabashed embrace and encouragement to terrorism lies its delusional though dangerous dream that ‘Kashmir will one day become Pakistan’, as Prime Minister Sharif said yesterday,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on July 23. “The whole of India would like to tell Prime Minister of Pakistan that this dream will not be realized even at the end of eternity. The whole of Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India. You will never be able to make this heaven on earth into a terror hell.”

Against this backdrop, Ranjath Singh’s visit to Islamabad signals the Modi government’s strategic design to keep the doors of engagement open with Pakistan and stop bilateral relations from worsening in the aftermath of the Kashmir tensions. The minister’s visit also signals that despite troubled relations, Mr Modi could visit Islamabad for the SAARC summit in November this year.

PM Modi’s visit is expected to be discussed in bilateral talks Ranjath Singh is expected to have with Pakistani leaders, including his counterpart.

Mr Modi had taken pioneering initiatives to mend fences with its estranged neighbour, but without much reciprocity from the other side. In out-of-box gestures, Mr Modi had invited Mr Sharif to his swearing-ceremony in May 2014 and sprang a surprise by visiting Lahore to participate in family celebrations of the Pakistani leader in December 2015. But the warm sentiments kindled by Mr Modi’s visit evaporated very soon as Pakistani terrorists struck at the Pathankot air base on January 2, derailing attempts to resume dialogue between the two countries.




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