Indian home minister to visit Pakistan as tensions flare

Rajnath Singh (in photo) will not hold a one-on-one meeting with his Pakistani counterpart. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP New Delhi, Delhi, India Jul 28, 2016, 03.51 PM (IST)
India's home minister will travel to Pakistan next week for a one-day regional meeting, New Delhi said today, as tensions flare between the nuclear-armed rivals over unrest in disputed Kashmir.

Rajnath Singh will attend a meeting of home ministers from countries belonging to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Islamabad, but will not hold a one-on-one with his Pakistani counterpart, the Indian foreign ministry said. It comes days after India lashed out at Pakistan, accusing its neighbour of fanning violent protests in Indian-administered Kashmir that have claimed more than 50 lives this month. 

"There is no such proposal (for a bilateral meeting)," foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said in New Delhi. "We want a peaceful, cooperative relation with Pakistan. We are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues with Pakistan, but in an atmosphere free of terror and violence," he said, without specifying which issues would be raised in the August 4 meeting.

The SAARC group includes India, Pakistan, Nepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. In a surprise move last December, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a visit to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif with a view to restarting a stalled dialogue. But planned peace talks were postponed after seven Indian soldiers died when an air base came under attack in January, which New Delhi blamed on a banned Pakistan-based group.

Indian-administered Kashmir has seen massive protests since the killing on July 8 of popular young rebel leader Burhan Wani in a gunfight with soldiers. Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the rivals won independence from British rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in full.