Rajnath leaves for Pakistan to participate in SAARC meeting

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Issues related to most wanted terrorist Dawood Ibrahim and cross-border terrorism are likely to be the focus of Home Minister Rajnath Singh at the SAARC Interior/Home Ministers’ meet on Thrusday during which he will underline meaningful cooperation among the South Asian countries.

Before leaving for Islamabad to attend the SAARC Home Ministers’ Conference, he tweeted that he was “looking forward to underscore the imperative of meaningful cooperation within the region against terrorism and organised crime.

“This Conference provides a platform to discuss issues pertaining to security,” said Singh, who is expected to tell Pakistan to stop sponsoring terror in India and rein in groups like Lashker-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

It was not immediately clear whether Singh will meet his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan separately due to sudden strain in India-Pakistan relations after Islamabad glorified the death of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani.

However, the Home Minister, in his speech at the SAARC meeting, is expected to raise the issue of Pakistan’s support to Ibrahim and to terror groups operating in India and ask Islamabad to check Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and other groups based in that country.

Singh is undertaking the visit notwithstanding threat by LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, who warned of a countrywide protest in Pakistan by his outfit if Singh arrives in Islamabad to attend the SAARC ministerial conference.

Singh’s visit comes in the backdrop of growing strain in Indo-Pak ties after Pakistan and its Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made provocative statements on the Kashmir situation in the wake of Wani’s killing on July 8.

Wani was a wanted terrorist of banned Hizbul Mujahideen. Sharif not only praised Wani but he also remarked that “Kashmir will one day become Pakistan”, a comment which evoked 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”

. Singh is also likely to raise the issue of fake Indian currency notes being circulated at the behest of Pakistani agencies, sources said. Apart from terrorism, other key issues to be discussed include liberalisation of visa, illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and small arms and how to make coordinated and concerted efforts to combat such menace.

The three-tier meeting began at the joint secretary-level and then moved on to Secretary and Home Minister-level meetings.

The meeting will also focus on strengthening networking among police authorities of SAARC member-countries and also enhance information-sharing among law enforcement agencies.

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