Home minister Rajnath Singh will travel to Pakistan on Wednesday to attend a meeting of Saarc interior ministers, becoming the first Indian leader to visit the neighbouring country since the terror attack on Pathankot airbase took ties to a new low.
Several Pakistan-based terror groups, including Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Syed Salahuddin’s Hizbul Mujahideen, have warned of protests against the visit. The groups have accused Singh of having a role in the widespread violence in Jammu and Kashmir that was triggered by the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani last month.
During the two-day Saarc meet, Singh is expected to raise New Delhi’s concerns about Islamabad’s support for terror groups and the circulation of fake Indian currency and drug trafficking from Pakistan.
India has ruled out a meeting between Singh and his Pakistani counterpart or other leaders, with officials saying the atmosphere is not conducive to such an interaction.
In recent weeks, India and Pakistan have engaged in a war of words after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif referred to Wani as a “Kashmiri leader” and described his death as an “extrajudicial killing”. Pakistan has also ramped up efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue but has received little support for its stance from key Western powers.
Back-to-back visits to Pakistan last December by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised hopes of better bilateral ties. During Swaraj’s visit, the two sides also agreed on starting a new Comprehensive Dialogue process but ties went into a tailspin after the Pathankot attack, which was blamed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed.
The two sides have not had any substantive dialogue since the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. That assault was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba and claimed 166 lives.