AMID INDIA-PAK TENSION, RAJNATH SINGH TO VISIT ISLAMABAD NEXT WEEK

NEW DELHI (TIP): Home minister Rajnath Singh will visit Islamabad on August 3 and 4 to attend the meeting of home ministers and interior ministers of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc)?nations.

This will be the first visit by a top Indian political functionary to Pakistan after the January 2 Pathankot airbase attack carried out by militants believed to be from across the border.

It also comes at a time ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours are seeing a chill in the aftermath of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

Kashmir has been on the boil since the death of 22-year-old Wani on July 8 in an encounter in southern Kashmir. His death sparked violent protests in the Valley that killed more than 40 people and wounded hundreds.

Pakistani leaders have criticised India over the Kashmir unrest, and the country observed on July 20 a “black day” to protest against the killings. The move drew angry reaction from India, which accused Islamabad of interfering in New Delhi’s internal affairs and backing terrorism.

Sources said the home minister may have bilateral meetings with Pakistani politicians during the visit.

At the 13th Saarc Summit held in Dhaka in November 2005, the heads of states decided that Saarc interior/home ministers will meet annually preceded by a meeting of the interior/home secretaries to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation.

“As far as the home minister’s visit to Islamabad is concerned, he will leave on August 3 and come back the next day,” said a home ministry official.

Singh is likely to take up with the Pakistani leadership the issue of a reciprocal visit of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to Islamabad for the Pathankot probe. A Pakistani joint investigation team visited India earlier this year, and the NIA shared the details of its investigation with it.

A week before the Pathankot attack that killed seven securitymen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a brief stopover in Lahore while returning to India from Afghanistan and Russia. Three weeks before Modi’s visit, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited Pakistan for a conference. Source: HT

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