Union home minister Rajnath Singh will hold a bilateral meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on the sidelines of the Saarc summit in Islamabad, government sources said.
Rajnath is also likely to make a courtesy call on Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his Islamabad visit on August 3-4 to attend the meeting of home and interior ministers of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) nations, but there is no official word on this as yet.
“Rajnath Singh is coming; it is a Saarc meeting. On such occasions, there is an expectation of meetings on the sidelines,” an official of the Pakistan ministry of foreign affairs told ANI. “Not aware if there is any meeting between Pakistan and India on the table.”
This will be the first trip by a top Indian political functionary to Pakistan after the January 2 Pathankot airbase attack by suspected Pakistani militants. A week prior to the Pathankot attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a brief stopover in Lahore to attend a marriage function hosted by PM Nawaz Sharif’s family on his way back from Kabul.
When asked if the issue of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim would be discussed during the meet, a senior government functionary, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, was noncommittal. “Abhi shant rahiye (keep quiet for now),” he said.
Sources claim all pending issues with Pakistan are on the table.
Besides Dawood Ibrahim, the minister might also raise the issue of the slow pace of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks trial, pending reciprocal visit of the NIA in connection with the Pathankot attack, and terrorists running anti-India activities from its soil.
The ministry of external affairs, however, hasn’t confirmed any bilateral meeting with the Pakistan interior minister. “He is going for a multilateral event...There is no such proposal (to have bilateral meeting). He (Rajnath) is going for a multilateral Saarc event,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
Rajnath’s visit comes at a time when ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours are seeing a chill in the aftermath of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
Pakistani leaders have criticised India over the Kashmir unrest, and the country observed on July 20 a “black day” to protest against the death of protestors in the Valley.
Even Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made provocative statements on the Kashmir situation, praising Wani and saying that “Kashmir will one day become Pakistan”.
Sharif’s comment drew 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”.