Indian Home Minister arrives in Pakistan amid Kashmir tension

ISLAMABAD: India’s home minister arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday to represent his country in a regional gathering that will focus on security, anti-terror cooperation and joint efforts against drug trafficking, officials said.

Pakistani and Indian officials have said that no bilateral meeting between Rajnath Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, is planned on the sidelines of the interior ministers’ conference of the South Asian Association.for Regional Cooperation. The SAARC groups Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nafees Zakaria, did not confirm a bilateral meeting when asked about the possibility of such a meeting.

“On such occasions, there is an expectation of meetings on the sidelines. However, I am not aware if there any between Pakistan and India on the table,” Zakaria said at his weekly briefing on Thursday.

Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Spokesman, Vikas Swanup, has also ruled out Singh’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the SAARC meeting.

“Let me categorically state that the home minister is going for the SAARC event. There will be no bilateral meetings with Pakistan” he said on his official Twitter on Friday.

Section of the Indian media has reported that Singh is likely to hold bilateral meetings in Islamabad including with Chaudhry Nisar.

Several Pakistani and Kashmiri groups on Wednesday staged demonstrations near Islamabad against the visit of the Indian Home Minister.

Officials say the interior ministers would discuss the issues of a coordinated fight against terrorism, illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs and small arms. The meeting will also focus on strengthening networking among police authorities of SAARC member-countries and enhance information-sharing among the law enforcement agencies.

SAARC Summit is scheduled to be held in Pakistan in November 2016 and India had earlier stated PM Narendra Modi will attend.

The last meeting of SAARC Interior/Home Ministers’ conference was held in Kathmandu in 2014.

Pakistan will also host the SAARC Finance Ministers Conference in Islamabad on 26th August.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has requested all member countries to participate in the moot to discuss considerable progress achieved in finance and investment related areas since the last meeting in Kathmandu in August 2015.

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